Thailand 101 || Best of Bangkok

There’s nothing like the hustle and bustle of a city. I usually feel pretty comfortable navigating my way through a big city. I felt even more at ease thanks to a few Apps with cool features like listing your hotel in Thai so your taxi driver knows where to go.

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After islanding hopping in Phi Phi I was ready to see the sights of the city and experience even more Thai culture. If I’ve learned one thing about myself, it’s that I’m not a backpacker. Am I on a budget? Yes. Am I willing to pay extra for privacy and more amenities? Yes. I think that makes me a “Flashpacker” versus a Backpacker or Luxury Traveler. Case in point, I’d seen lots of posts about Khao San Road, but I opted to stay on Sukhumvit Road.

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Home Sweet Hom

Known for its skyscrapers and Red Light District, Sukhumvit is the longest road in the center of Bangkok. I stayed at the newly opened Hom Hostel and Cooking Club in the Nana district.

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 Photo via Hom

Hom is a modern boutique hostel that not only offers a free Thai breakfast but traditional Thai cooking classes. Located on the fourth floor of a shopping mall, Hom has seven rooms with a mix of dorm style and private rooms. The space has little touches of home like an assortment of books, a handwritten welcome note and a communal kitchen.

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 Photo via Hom

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 Photo via Hom

The rooms are clean, spacious and the shower is enclosed. Which is a crucial point for me because I don’t like wet bathrooms. They boast that the mattresses are four star hotel quality and I must admit I had my most comfortable sleep here.

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 Photo via Hom

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 Photo via Hom

There is an open concept kitchen where all guests are encouraged to cook and share recipes. A living room with games, movies and communal computers. A washer and dryer and great rooftop garden and outdoor space. Hom is less than a five minute walk to the Nana BTS Train Station which made getting around the city extremely easy.

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A Night Out

After I checked in and started talking to the owner, she invited me out for drinks with her friends at a traditional Thai Bar. Tep Bar is a moody bar in the Charoenkrung area that serves up cocktails mixed with Thai herbs and spices, Thai tapas and traditional Thai herbal whiskey. Which was pretty potent, let me tell you! The entrance is hidden down a sketchy looking alleyway, but look for a black door and delicate signage in Thai.

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The space is perfect for a small to medium sized group. We chatted about travels and work upstairs, while traditional Thai music was being performed by a live band on the ground floor. One drink turned into three, then tapas were served. Everything tasted so unique, so exotic. We left about three hours later after we’d run up an impressive bill that was worth every baht.

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 Photo via BK Magazine

Suggested Cocktails:  Yadong Set; Three shots of herbal Thai whiskey, Like A Virgin tasted like a Thai mojito and Song Kran (Sweet & Sour).

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Suggested Snacks: Tua Samoon Prai (mixed nuts with Thai herbs), the Khao Pode Klook Foon (sweet corn roasted with Thai spices) tasted like a delicious corn fritter. You can’t go wrong with anything deep fried and the Larb Tod, a crispy deep fried ball of spicy minced pork is no exception.

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 Photo via BK Magazine

Hom Hostel is in the Red Light (Nana) District, which means that by simply walking outside you’re guaranteed to see prostitutes. The go-go bars and ladyboy shows weren’t too far away. Check out this article for more details on where to party in Nana.

Take A Thai Cooking Class

The next morning after I ate my delicious Thai breakfast, I got ready for the traditional Thai cooking class. I assumed it would be a small class for the hostel guests. But the owner actually uses the classes as a fundraiser and invites friends and families to participate. A large portion of the proceeds from the cooking classes is donated to Nang Loeng, a local cooking community. Hom Hostel also employs members of the Nang Loeng community to help maintain the hostel.

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I love to cook and I love to eat even more, so in theory I should do well in the class right? Nope! The first recipe we tried was the Traditional Thai Shortbread Cookies and let me preface this by saying, patience truly is a virtue. No lie, it took me about three or four tries, with each cookie before I got it “right”. And by “right” I mean acceptable by elementary school standards.

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The recipe was extraordinarily easy, but it was REALLY difficult to get the size of the cookie correct. It looks deceptively simple to make but don’t let looks fool you! After all of the dough was rolled, cut and painted we baked them. We were allowed to try a few after the initial baking period so we could taste the difference after it was perfumed. The taste was indescribable, these are the most delicious and unique cookies I’ve ever made! I found two great videos to share with you if you want to make these at home. We used the same exact product and measurements as this video. However, the measurements in this video are converted to cups and includes the step where the cookies are perfumed by a Thai candle.

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Photo via Instagram

The next traditional Thai dessert we made was Steamed Banana Bread. Besides substituting the tiny Thai bananas with regular bananas this recipe is pretty simple to recreate. There is SO much coconut in Thailand so shaving a coconut was easier  to do there than it would be here. We used a traditional Thai steamer to make these, but you could create a double boiler at home for the same result. Despite those things, this recipe is worth the elbow grease you’ll need to shave those coconuts! The end result is something that taste similar to a banana pancake but more moist. Here is a  short video that uses the same recipe and steps I did in class.

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 Photo via Instagram

What I didn’t know was while we were learning, watching and waiting for the desserts, lunch was being prepared. After all of our traditional Thai desserts were ready, we sat down for a traditional Thai lunch. Which included lots of fresh veggies, rice, chicken, mackerel with chili sauce and a Thai omelette with chicken. Not only was the food some of the best I’ve ever tasted, it was so rewarding to sit down with a group of people that I’d just met but also just accomplished something with.

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Visit The Floating Market

With so many travel agencies and ways to book day trips, there’s no need to worry if you don’t plan any excursions before you arrive in Thailand. I found a day trip with a private taxi to the Damnoen Floating Market for 1500 baht ($42). However, at Hom Hostel I saw a group rate of 500 baht ($14) for a minivan to pick you up at the hostel, take you to the market, take you on a speed boat tour and back to the hostel. I decided to save 1000 baht and go with the small group.

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I ended up meeting an American couple from Los Angeles and we had a great conversation. Chatting about what to do in Bangkok, their plans for Chiang Mai and our new American President. We also stopped in different parts of Bangkok, areas I wouldn’t have had time to visit like Khao San Road. I giggled watching people play drinking games on the street. They were obviously still lit from the night before.

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After the hour and a half or so drive to the market we were told we had two hours to explore. It is possible to walk parts of the market and there are plenty of street vendors. In addition to walking around, I paid 150 baht ($4) to ride a paddle boat through the floating area of market.

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We slowly passed by boats that were selling fruit and food. Some vendor and artisans had booths where they sold art, hats, jewelry and other small knick knacks. We’d often bump into other boats of tourists, the place was so crowded. It was interesting to see the assortment of product and the homes and businesses on the water.

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 Here is a similar deal I found online if you’re a planner.

Visit The Temples

I took BTS from the Nana Station to the Saphan Taksin Station. After walking down some stairs and following a few signs I bought my ferry ticket for 14 baht (less than 50 cents). I found this article very helpful and it has a BTS map. The best thing about this group of locations below is that you can walk from one to the next.

The Grand Palace & The Emerald Buddha

Address: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
Admission: 500 baht ($14)
Dress: Modest; Covered arms and legs

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Visiting the Palace and the Emerald Buddha during Thailand’s mourning period was surreal. Read all about that here. Besides the fact that the King’s body was at the Temple and there were hundreds of Thai people there to pay respect. The mood was very melancholy.

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I discovered that the golden statues surrounding the Emerald Temple are actually guardians called Garuda.

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The two demon statues guarding this holy temple were a gift from Chinese merchants. The sheer magnitude of these brightly colored pieces is in stark contrast to the rest of the grounds. I noticed even more brightly dressed demons on the gilded chedis near the Royal Pantheon.

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Eight prangs or pagodas line the eastern side of the palace. Each one a different color of Chinese porcelain. I wish I could’ve captured them all in one shot.

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Wat Pho (The Reclining Buddha)

Address: 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Admission: 100 baht ($3)
Dress: Modest; Covered arms and legs

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There is something spectacular about the chedis at the Wat Pho. They’re otherworldly! So intricately designed and created. The color and tilework, not to mention a thousand beautiful buddha statues. Wat Pho is the oldest Temple in Bangkok and houses the largest collection of buddha images in Thailand. It was the first university in the country and is known as the birthplace of traditional Thai Massage. Which you can still get today and will cost between 300 baht ($8)  and 800 baht ($24).  There is also an area of the Temple used for social events, so when I was there music could be heard throughout the grounds.

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Some of the 95 chedis on the property are more spectacular than the others. Especially the four in this photo. Learn about the temples history and why these four are unique here.

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I’ve never laid eyes on anything as grand or golden as Wat Pho. The statue is nearly fifty feet high and one hundred and fifty feet long. The line to take a photo of it seemed to be just as long and even after waiting, there’s bound to be a photo bomber or two.

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Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)

Address: 158 Wang Doem Rd, Khwaeng Wat Arun, Khet Bangkok Yai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10600, Thailand
Admission: 100 baht ($3)
Dress: Modest; Covered arms and legs

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Wat Arun is the sparkling temple that you see glittering on the river. That was my vision, a river cruise at night where I could be dazzled by the lights of this shining temple. The reality was, I wouldn’t have time to visit Wat Arun.

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For whatever reason, it wasn’t in the cards for me to see Wat Arun upclose, however I did catch glimpses of it. From the ferry on the way to the Grand Palace, walking from the Palace to the Flower Market and watching the sun set on it as I waited at the pier.

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Visit The Flower Market

Address: 53 Chakphet Rd, Khwaeng Wang Burapha Phirom, Khet Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10200, Thailand

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When I think of a Flower Market, I think of an inclosed space but the Pak Khlong Market is the opposite. Don’t look for any signs pointing you in the right direction. When you arrive at the Flower Market you’ll know it. You’ll notice ladies making arrangements and offerings, the bold colors and the intoxicating scent!

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The best time to visit the Flower Market is just before dawn when the deliveries arrive or in the middle of the night for a taste of the city life.

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Goodnight Bangkok

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After an adventurous afternoon I hopped on the ferry and headed Hom for my final meal in Thailand. This time the crowd was much smaller and the vibe was more intimate. The chef was actually a scientist who loves to create gluten free food. She had many questions for me regarding Americans and our diet fads.

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My day ended with coconut curry, chicken and you guessed it, fish! The gluten free bread actually tasted more like angel food cake, especially when paired with this delicious jam!

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Are you planning a trip to Thailand? Have you already been? I’d love to know what you did on your trip or what you have planned.

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Thanks to Hom Hostel & Cooking Club for sponsoring my stay. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Best Of || IKEA 2017

Tis the season for DIY-ing and what could be a better starting point than the IKEA catalog? Now that I’m back home from my travels and nesting, all I want to do is personalize my 850 square foot studio apartment. Add unique details that make it uniquely mine. I’m also working with the owner and putting the final touches on the custom kitchenette. Yesterday we picked out the cabinetry, sink and shelves at Ikea. This week he’s going to shop around for the best price on quartz countertops. Then all of the real work begins.

I got a chance to touch, see and shop the Ikea 2017 arrivals. Two hours later, I’d completed my task and a Best Of list. All of which could help turn any house into a home. So if you have a few hours to kill and want to add budget-friendly accessories to your home, keep reading! Here’s the Best of Ikea 2017. My picks are perfect for budgets and spaces large or small.

The ELVARLI $740  is the perfect storage solution for those with limited closet space like myself. The best things is you can add more shelves, drawers and whatever else you might need to this wardrobe to customize it for your space.
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Photo via Livet Emma

What’s better than one FALSTERBO Wall Shelf $90? Two FALSTERBO wall shelves! Well, they look like pretty great side by side in this kitchen designed by Maija Rasila. It’s a little too dark for my kitchen space but it has all the necessities; shelves, drawers and little hooks to hang mugs and other small items on.ikea2
Photo via Pihkala

This BIRKET Rug $140 would add a fun pop of color and print to any room. The dense, thick pile rug adds warmth and a cozy surface during the cold winter months. ikea-picks-birket-rug-lgPhoto via Brit.Co

The KVISTBRO Storage Tables $50-$60 is where function meets fashion. These  versatile storage tables are ideal for small-space dwellers like myself. Use them to store almost anything, from books and board games to blankets and pillows. ikea-picks-kvistbro-storage-tables-lgPhoto via Brit.Co

Add a black paint to Ikea’s  BOTKYRKA Shelf $30 and voilà, a chic and modern kitchen shelf with an edge. The shelf is not wide, so don’t think about storing plates or larger items here. The black and white dishes make a bold statement that would look great in any kitchen. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   Photo via oblik.

If you work from home like me, the KNOTTEN Standing Desk $150 is a welcome addition. There’s a space for everything; laptop, chargers, calendars, mail and keys. Which means this standing desk can transform the smallest alcove into a functioning office space. ikea-picks-knotten-standing-desk-lgPhot Brit.Co

I’ve been eyeing the RASKOG Utility Cart $30 for a while, but the new color options pushed me over the edge. Who doesn’t need a cute bar cart? Me, but a cute catchall, everyone needs that! This one looks luxe next to the leather couch.screenshot-2016-12-08-at-3-37-05-am-editedPhoto via Livet Hemma

The GRÖNADAL Rocking Chair $250 is a practical way to add some whimsy to your living space. The chairs are manufactured in a rattan factory in Vietnam using traditional techniques in an effort to keep the handicraft tradition alive. 1-24-768x576
Photo via Livet Hemma

Top Ten || Travel Hacks

I’m always looking for ways to save time and money when I travel. There are a many common ones like wearing your heaviest shoes and jacket on the plane or packing snack and booze. Here are ten tried and true travel hacks that I practice every time I travel.

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Book One Way Flights. This is best for domestic flights stateside or internationally. For example, my flight from Bangkok to Krabi in southern Thailand was less than $80 roundtrip because I booked with two different airlines. Most third party sites like Kayak and Kiwi do this.

24-hour Refund Window. Even non refundable flights generally have a 24-hour window during which you can cancel without paying a fee. So if you see a deal that’s too good to pass up, snag it. You’ll have another day to find a better rate, or change your mind.

Scan or take a photo of your passport, ID, and itinerary and email them to yourself. This provides an extra copy of each in case of loss or theft.

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Roll Your Clothes. Rolling allows more things to fit in your suitcase. You can even roll underwear and socks within your clothes and shoes to save extra space.

Bring A Pen. There are always forms to fill out, at the airport or on the flight. Especially when traveling internationally. So bring a pen so you don’t have to ask for one.

BYOB. Instead of buying water bottles, BYOB. You can’t have water in it passing through security, but once you get to the gate you can fill up at a water fountain or restaurant. They’re also great while you’re traveling. In Thailand there was always free water bottles in the room, I would keep my bright pink bottle filled so I could stay hydrated.

Use ATMs For Local Currency. ATMs dispense local currency and are generally less expensive than those currency exchanges booths. TIP: Make sure you notify your bank that you will be in a different country so you don’t have any issues at the ATM.

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Download Helpful Apps: Offline Navigation Apps like Here We Go are great at helping navigate a new city. The best part is after you download the country map, you can use it without Wifi or a SIM card. FoodSpotting is a great App that helps you find new restaurants based on photos and location. See more of my favorite Travel Apps here and here.

Make Free Calls While Abroad. There are lots of Apps you can use for free Wifi calls. My top three are Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and SnapChat.

Eat Locally. I understand you’re craving a burger and fries. But you’ll pay a premium for that. Instead, save money and immerse yourself in the culture by trying the local cuisine.

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Are there any travel hacks you swear by? If so, please share them below, I’m always looking for ways to save time, money or both.

 

The King & His Castle || Visiting the Grand Palace during the Mourning Period

Thailand’s parliament just announced that the “Crown Prince” Maha Vajiralongkorn will take the throne. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in October due to kidney failure. After taking some time to mourn his father, Prince Vajiralongkorn will now lead the monarchy. Thailand however, will be in an official state of mourning for a year, with public servants required to wear black as a sign of respect. During my recent visit, there were so many different ways the country showed respect to their king of over 70 years.

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King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the world’s longest reigning king and for many Thai people, the only King they’ve ever known. Not only was he respected as King, to many he was the Father of the country. His birthday December 5th is celebrated as Father’s Day.

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Everywhere I went I saw amazing murals and dedications to the King. I literally couldn’t walk a block without seeing flowers, a photo or a mural dedicated to him. Being an American, it was awe-inspiring to see such love and respect dedicated to a political leader. Especially with our current political climate, it’s hard to fathom.

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I spotted this candlelight vigil at JJ Market. There were many similar booths throughout the market where people could light a candle and say a prayer for the King.

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One of the things I enjoyed most was seeing amazingly ornate murals of the surviving Queen Sirikit. I know it’s a monarchy…but every king needs a queen!

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The King’s Castle

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The Royal Palace was a one of my must visit locations. Being the social butterfly that I am, I made a few Thai friends and I heard so many great stories of the things mourners do to show their respect. For example, immediately after the King’s death citizens were allowed to visit his final resting place at the Temple of Emerald Buddha. People from rural parts of the country walked hours to Bangkok to pay their respects. For others, it’s as simple as fulfilling a need. I was told that some people walk around the Palace and pick up trash as a way to pay respect to the King.

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The most impactful thing I saw when arriving to the Palace was the sea of black. Hundreds of Thai people walking to the Palace wearing black and white, the official mourning colors. We lined up, men entering on the left and women on the right.

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After walking through a metal detector and getting my bag searched, I walked down what could only be described as a photo wall. There were paintings of the King both young and old for people to take photos with. It was heartwarming to see people posing next to images of the musician and the engineer, the many different sides of the monarch.

 

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I got my bag searched one last time, before I was permitted past the gates and into the Palace. Well, technically outside the Palace. It costs 500 baht ($14) to enter the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha. The temple is also the final resting place for the King, so naturally there were many mourners waiting to pay their respects. The interesting thing is only Thai people are permitted to visit the body.

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The Grand Palace is one of the most beautiful man-made places I’ve ever seen. I need an entire post to do it justice, so I’ll share more photos and detail in a separate post. As you’re walking out of the area with the temple you turn a corner and there it is, The Palace. This grandiose estate that’s traditional  yet modern. There are guards surrounding the property and only allowing you to take a few steps toward it for a photo op.

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Outside the Gates

It’s when you leave the Grand Palace that you see the true kindness of the Thai people. There are street vendors offering free food, booths with free water bottles and dedicated areas for mourners to sit, eat and drink together, for free. As I walked by to take a few photos I was encouraged by multiple people to get in line and partake. Unfortunately, I had other plans. So I continued with my walk noticing all the beautiful white floral arrangements dedicated to the King and the people walking by, most wearing black.

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Other interesting things I noticed was that most Thai websites have a black and white image of the King on the page that you have to close out of before you’re redirected to the website. There were also multiple television channels that solely show photos of the King with calming music playing in the background.

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Did you visit Thailand during its mourning period? What did you think?

It’s Complicated || Dating as a Digital Nomad 

Dating sucks sometimes. Especially when you’re not in one place for long. I’m rarely in the same state or country for longer than three months. Which makes me feel like a free bird and at times like a caged dove. Either wild and free or always alone.

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Photo Credit: Aline Dahmen

While being an avid traveler can be life changing and enriching it can also be lonely. I sometimes feel like being in a relationship would distract me from my travel goals. I’d be missing bae more and enjoying travel less. It’s just a theory, but I’m pretty confident with my hypothesis.

When I moved from California to Atlanta I was still dating someone who lived in California. Missing him made my transition even more difficult. Long conversations took our relationship from “miss you” to “love you”. Pretty soon I was planning trips to see him. This continued for a year, until he told me he’d found a girlfriend. Yep, a girlfriend and could I blame him? I’m the one who decided to move across the country. So I had to let him go right? I had to move on and date locally. Find a nice southern gentleman to “yes ma’am” me.

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Photo Credit: @masterwilliams via Instagram

Eventually, I found one. He was kind, considerate and single. But I was leaving to work out of state for three months. So before it got too serious, I decided to “friend-zone” him.

While I was away I started receiving texts from my California Love and that’s how our “complicationship” began. He’d told his girlfriend about me. That we’d dated before he met her and that I’d moved away. He also told her that he still loved me and wanted to continue to see me when I was in town. She agreed to be in an open relationship with him and in a way, I guess I did too.

We’d talk and text frequently. Sometimes he’d tell me that our communication made her feel insecure or jealous. But what else did he expect? I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be sharing either, but at the time it seemed like the logical thing to do. As long as we were all being open and honest with each other, what was the problem?

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Photo Credit: @doyoutravel and @gypsea_lust via Instagram

The problem was, love is not logical and after a year in this complicationship, I had to cut ties. It was harder than I expected, but in the end I felt empowered. I also learned that although I’m liberal and open minded, open relationships are not for me.

I decided to update my online dating profiles and put myself back out there. After a few duds I met someone cool and right away he asked me out for coffee. During our date he let it slip that he had a girlfriend. I didn’t cause a scene or skip a beat. I continued on with our conversation and my chai latte. When he dropped me off I knew that would be the last time I’d see him.

He called to ask me out again and I asked about his girlfriend. He was honest about being in a relationship but said that they had an “understanding”. Here we go again right!? Nope! I wasn’t getting caught up, so I politely declined. His response was, he thought I’d be cool with it because I travelled so much and wouldn’t want to be tied down.

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Photo Credit: @ayanaiman via Instagram

He was right on two accounts, I did travel a lot and didn’t want to be tied down. But I also wasn’t looking for another complicationship. So I thanked him again for the coffee and that was that. Chatting with a friend I asked if I had “Open to Open Relationships” stamped on my forehead? After she assured me I didn’t, I asked if she’d ever be open to an open relationship.

Even after finding dating apps and online communities for digital nomads, I decided to delete my online dating profiles. My current thought process is, if I meet someone interesting in real life, I’ll see where it goes. Otherwise I’m just going to focus on work, family, friends and travel.

Are you an avid traveler who also happens to be single? How has your lifestyle affected your dating life? Have you tried alternative dating styles or open relationships? How did that work for you?

Links I Like || Gobble Gobble

48 Hours in Koh Phi Phi

Island hopping was on the top of my list of things to do in Thailand. Instead of the elephant sanctuaries and ancient temples of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, I went south for some fun in the sun. After one day in Bangkok and a night in Krabi I was ready to head to Koh Phi Phi (Pee Pee) for some island vibes. The only way to get to Phi Phi is by ferry, which is easy to book from Krabi. There are booths everywhere and the prices are generally the same. I paid 700 baht ($20) for round trip ferry tickets.

This site is really helpful for getting ferry times and prices.

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As soon as you get off the ferry be prepared to pay a 20 baht (sixty cent) “clean up” fee. I looked at it as a entrance fee, and honestly a small price to pay to visit one of the most beautiful islands in the country and most resilient places in the world. I can’t forget how the 2004 tsunami devastated the island and being there in all it’s splendor was surreal.

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I couldn’t wait to check in to my hotel and check out the island! I’d read that getting to Bay View Resort was a bit of a trek from the pier but that the view was worth walk. I’m not gonna lie, it was a walk! Luckily I didn’t have to carry my luggage, but I definitely tipped the guys who did. Bayview Resort is a beautiful beachfront property on Laem Hin Beach. I was welcomed with a glass of pineapple juice and a beautiful view of Phi Phi Le Island.

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The room was clean and comfortable. The most important things for me when booking accommodation were; free wifi in the room, air conditioning and a western-style bathroom. Ever since I learned about “wet bathrooms” on my trip to Europe last fall, I decided they’re not for me, given a choice. Bayview delivered on all of those and more.

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(Via Agoda)

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(Via Agoda)

The First 24

After a little research I learned that there was a poolside Spa, so I headed down for a Thai Massage. 300 baht ($9) for an hour was the going rate on the island and I was ready for some relaxation. Unfortunately, when I got there, there was a wait. So I ended up at the poolside bar with a pina colada. Pretty soon it was the “golden hour” aka prime time for mosquito bites. Which signaled that it was time to for me to get inside and start getting ready for the night.

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I dined on a Spicy Glass Noodle Salad with Shrimp then walked down to the infamous Reggae Bar. This Muay Thai hotspot is where the audience gets as much ring time as the professionals. Anyone who wants a free bucket can volunteer to fight. I was impressed by the skill of some fighters, while others simply gave up. There were even a few impressive girl fights.

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The noticeable difference between the pros and the joes was that the professional fighters did a ritual known as Wai Khru Ram before each bout. It was an obvious sign of respect for the art, their coaches and their opponents.

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You can’t pic with us, unless you’re a winner! His man-bun wasn’t bad either.

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Being the social butterfly that I am, I made friends with a few Brits. Around midnight it started to rain (welcome to tropical paradise!) so we decided to walk to Slinky Beach Bar. A beachfront nightclub that plays songs that make you want to dance aka Drake, RiRi. There’s a pole and a bull for those of us adventurous types. Let’s just say I rode the bull and a fun time was had by all.

The Next Morning

I woke up with a hangover and hungry for my Traditional Thai breakfast at Bayview’s Rooftop Restaurant. I quickly learned that a “Traditional Thai Breakfast” is essentially a smaller portion of what would be served for lunch or dinner. Breakfast was buffet-style with a few western options including an omelet station. I opted for chicken and vegetable curry with rice, potatoes and a mix of orange and pineapple juice. Oh, and let’s not forget the spectacular breakfast views.

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After breakfast I walked back up to the room and when I say up I mean, all the way UP! There are a lot of stairs and hills at Bayview Resort, which isn’t a bad idea after breakfast. The other plus was, each room had a balcony with the most spectacular views of Phi Phi Le Island and the Andaman Sea. After a catnap I got ready for my day of island hopping.

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Island Hopping

Another great thing about Bayview was that I could book services from the comfort of my hotel lobby. Walking through Phi Phi you’ll see info for Speed Boat and Long Tail Boat Tours. The price is the same at every place, 1500 baht ($35) for 4 hours of beach and island hopping. TIP: Make sure your tour includes snorkeling gear.

I’d read and heard first hand accounts of people being stuck in the middle of the ocean on a long tail boat. Everything was figured out eventually, and they didn’t die, but I decided a Speedboat would be most efficient.

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Monkey Bay

First was Monkey Beach in Monkey Bay. The monkeys are ADORABLE and quite tame. If boatloads of people came to feed me daily, I’d be pretty friendly too! Although people are told not to feed the monkeys, they do. Because of this the monkey’s are comfortable jumping on people or even boats in search for a snack. I however, decided to observe the rules and hang back a bit. I didn’t get vaccinated and although they’re cute, I didn’t want to come back with the monkey flu!

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Phi Phi Le Island

The next stop was Viking Cave on Phi Phi Le Island. It was a drive by, but so interesting to look at. I did a little online digging and learned that the bamboo scaffolding is built by local hunters who climb into the cave at night and gather swiftlet nests. Edible birds nests that are thought by some to promote good health, skin and virility.

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Pileh Bay

Home to the clearest, bluest waters I’ve ever seen. The first thing I did was jump feet first into the hidden gem that is Phileh Lagoon. The warm salt water bay is completely closed off to the rest of the island and enclosed by limestone mountains. Swimming in this spectacular sea of turquoise was my pinch me moment.

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Here’s the video of my timid jump into the lagoon.

Shark Point

The first time I snorkeled was a few months ago in Jamaica and I couldn’t wait to do it again in Thailand. Shark Point in Long Beach was an extraordinary place for a novice snorkeler. Although I didn’t see any sharks, I did get to swim with the fishes.

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Here’s the video from the underwater paradise.

Maya Bay

Maya Bay is the famous beach the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. In the movie Leo and his friends are searching for the perfect, secluded island and I found it! Along with so MANY others. To get there on foot you have to climb a rope ladder and walk a ways. On my tour however, they just dropped us off on the beach to explore for an hour. While Maya Bay is a slice of paradise with mangroves and limestone cliffs, it’s also pretty polluted. Wading in the water I found old rope, plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and all different types of debris. Then I understood why there’s a 20 baht clean up fee.

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Leaving Maya Bay we were able to catch the most incredible sunset. After an adventurous day I decided to head to my hotel, order room service and call it an early night. I woke up around midnight to the sound of the pouring rain and was thankful I’d decided to stay in.

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The Last Day

I had a few more places to see and things to do before I left the island. After I packed and scheduled a long tail boat to the pier, I finally treated myself to a Thai Massage. The mixture of pleasure and pain was unfamiliar but exactly what I needed after two days of walking around Phi Phi.

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After my massage I had to visit Phi Phi’s only rooftop bar. Like Reggae Bar, Banana Bar was on my Top Ten: Thailand Itinerary. So I had to check it out for “research purposes” right? After walking past it, and asking a local for help, I found it down a small alleyway.

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Believe it or not, I was looking forward to the view more than the bogo bucket deal. Not only was the view unparalleled and the drinks tasty, the vibe was super chill. I was surprised to learn that Banana Bar is a Mexican restaurant. Even more surprising, it was filled with American tourists. I grabbed a barstool and made small talk with the bartender while people watching. There was a couple playing ping pong, people watching the election on flat screens and a lounge area with cots, pillows and much needed shade.

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Before the US President was announced I walked back to Bayview to catch my long tail boat to the pier. When I got back to my luggage and free wifi I received a handful of texts telling me to stay in Thailand because of the outcome of the election and no lie, I considered staying. Now, I’m planning a move. I fell in love with Thailand and will be living there this time next year, even if it’s only for six months to a year.

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Have you ever visited Phi Phi? I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you lived in Thailand? I’d love any tips on moving to the land of smiles.

Thanks to Bayview Resort for sponsoring my stay. Some of the links are affiliate links, but as always, all opinions are my own. 

Dealing with Deleted Photos

I must admit. I tried to play it cool when I found out that all of my images would be deleted after getting my phone repaired. It went wonky when I was in Jamaica and it was either get my phone reset, or try to get a new phone before my trip to Asia (which was not an option financially).

Every now and then, I’ll remember a photo from Europe that I want to post or that cool quote that I took a screenshot of and get sad. I’m grieving my lost images. But they’re more than images, they’re memories. I’m grieving the loss of that really cute selfie I took on the Eiffel Tower. Not to mention the photos from my cruise to the Bahamas! To prevent this from happening again, I’ve downloaded Dropbox. I’ve had Dropbox and just like my iCloud, didn’t really back things up regularly. This time will be different.

You’re probably thinking, what about your iCloud!? Did you save any pictures to a hard drive? Honestly…who really knows how the CLOUD works? I tried (half assedly) to recover my images from the Cloud and kept getting an error message. So, that was that.

Just to be a little scientific, I dug up a few stats. Who knows how accurate they really are, but I got them from Gigaom which seems like a decent enough source, right?

“iOS users take 65 percent more photos during any given month that their Android counterparts: The average iOS user takes 182 photos per month, while Android users only take 111 photos on average…. The biggest photo lovers are female iPhone users under the age of 25, taking an average of 250 photos per month.” 

That’s it!? I guess when I’m home or bored, I don’t take many photos, but when I’m on vacation or exploring a new place, I’m a shutterbug!

The hero of this story is my GoPro Hero. I got it right before my trip to Europe and as I was going through photos saved on my hard drive I found a few great shots from my time at the Piazza San Marco in Venezia (Venice).

St Mark’s Campanile

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Santa Maria della Salute

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Old Houses along The Canal

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On A Boat

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The Gondolier

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The Grand Canal

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Photo Diary || Krabi Province

I’ve heard a few not-so-great things about Phuket. So I opted for the more affordable resort town of Krabi to be my gateway to the Koh Phi Phi Islands. I flew in and out of Krabi Airport which is only about an hour flight from Bangkok. The extremely picturesque town on the western coast of southern Thailand is rich with beautiful limestone cliffs and scenic beaches. Krabi is the epitome of a small beach town and was the perfect place to begin and end my island-hopping adventure.

Arriving on Nok Air

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Winding Roads and Limestone Cliffs

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Zooming Traffic

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An Eye-catching Hotel Logo

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Sweet and Simple Table Decor

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On The Road as the Sunsets Behind Us

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Ao Nang Beach at Dusk

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Parking Stalls that Look like Elephants

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Ao Nang Beach

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Don’t be Krabi, be your Selfie!

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Beautiful Beach View from the Street

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Ao Nang Beach

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How To Travel in Thailand Like a Local

I just returned from the most amazing trip to Thailand and China. Since I’m still on that time zone and am wide awake at 1:27 AM, which is 4:27 PM in Thailand. I figured, there’s no better time than the present to start recapping my trip.

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Colorful Tuk Tuk in Krabi. 

One of the most daunting things about traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language is getting around. From planes, trains and taxis to ferries, longtail boats and tuk tuks traveling through Thailand is a major part of the adventure. Getting lost every now and again is also a part of the fun. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned that helped me travel through Thailand like a local.

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Longtail boats in Koh Phi Phi. 

Getting from the airport to the hotel seems like it would be as easy as hailing a cab, but it’s a little more complicated than that. If you go outside on the top floor of the Suvarnabhumi (BKK) Airport, you’ll find a fleet of private cars which will run you about 1000 baht. Save yourself a few hundred baht and head downstairs for a metered taxi. Get in line to get a ticket for a van or sedan then head to the line number on your ticket. Note: There is a 50 baht airport surcharge going to or from either of Bangkok’s airport.  

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Traffic in Bangkok. 

 In general, communicating with taxi drivers was pretty easy because most of them know a little bit of english. However, good luck getting to your hotel or hostel by showing them the address in english. The most helpful thing EVER for this was the Agoda App. After you book or locate your hotel on this app, you can select Taxi Helper and it will display your hotel address in Thai.

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Agoda App’s Taxi Helper showing hostel address in Thai. 

Now, you’re all checked into your hotel and the first thing you want to do is start exploring. There are two apps that saved my life and my budget and they were Here We Go and Rome2Rio. Both of them will tell you how far you are from your desired destination and how long it would take you to walk or drive there. Here We Go works offline after you download the country map and is great for step by step directions whether you are driving or walking. I used Rome2Rio often to gauge how much a taxi should cost from one location to the next. It’s also best if you plan on using a train or bus to get around.

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Rome2Rio App showing the price, time and transportation options.

When your cab driver figures out where you’re going, he’ll probably give you a quote. The first thing the locals do is ask for the meter. Many drivers will have a meter but would rather quote you a more expensive price. However, if you don’t see a meter, haggle. This is when the Rome2Rio app comes in handy, because you can check in advance to get an accurate quote of what it should cost. After you settle on the price, open up the Here We Go App and get turn by turn directions to make sure your taxi is taking you to the right place.

After a day of sightseeing in Bangkok, my plan was to fly down to Krabi and do a little island-hopping. When booking my flight to southern Thailand I saved money by using local airlines for domestic travel. I booked through Kiwi.com and flew down on Nok Air and back up to Bangkok on Thai Lion Air for less than $100 roundtrip. It was only an hour flight, so unlike taking a bus or train, I didn’t lose any vacation time.

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Nok Air flight from Bangkok to Krabi. 

One night in Krabi and I was ready to head to Koh Phi Phi for two days of fun in the sun on one of the most beautiful islands in the country. The only way to get to Phi Phi is by Ferry or private boat. I opted to take the ferry which was 700 baht roundtrip. That price included being picked and dropped up at my hotel and the ferry tickets.

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Ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi

 There are no cars or roads on Phi Phi, so the only way to get around is to walk, take a longtail boat or speed boat. One of the other islands I wanted to visit was Ko Lanta, but there is only one boat to Lanta a day from Phi Phi which was 300 baht and only one way. So I would have had to stay the night there. Which wouldn’t have worked because I’d already booked two nights at my hotel. I also could’ve booked a half day boat charter to take me there for 1500 to 3000 baht for 3-6 hours.

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Longtail Boat Taxi’s on Phi Phi. 

For my return trip from Phi Phi to Krabi I had to be at the pier 30 minutes before the ferry departed which is only two times per day. The lesson I learned, do a little research on how often ferries travel to and from the islands you want to visit. You can also wait until the day of to book accommodations, so if you decide you want to check out another island you’re not worried about losing money on a hotel.

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Ao Tonsai Pier in Phi Phi

The truth about tuk tuks is, they’re a novelty. Is it something you should experience? Yes. Is it something you should take for a long period of time? No. I found that tuk tuks were a little more expensive than taxis and they don’t have meters, so it’s all about bartering. I would suggest taking it back to the hotel after you’ve walked to dinner instead of taking it from one landmark to the next, that’s how they get you!

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Tuk Tuk Ride. 

Believe it or not, taking the Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) is much easier than it seems. If you’ll be in Bangkok for a few days, spending a little time on these super quick, affordable and crowded vessels is a must if you want to travel like a local. Getting from one place to the next on BTS could cost you around 30 baht and take less than 20 minutes, where getting to the same place in a taxi could cost 200 baht and take an hour because of traffic. I dared myself to take BTS on my last day and it was one of the best things I could’ve done. Stay tuned for a more complete guide on taking BTS to explore Bangkok.

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View from Nana BTS Platform. 

There’s nothing better than feeling secure and confident. Especially when exploring unchartered territories. I hope my tips can help you do so. I also found an awesome and accurate video on 5 Tips on Taking a Taxi in Bangkok. The most helpful things, how to spot an available taxi and the correct way to wave one down.

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Sunset from the Saphan Taksin Station