Chumphon, Thailand — December 2016

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Honestly, this stop probably needs a few blog posts for me to be able to uncover all of the beauty I found in it. It’s been quite a few months (about 9 to be exact) and I’m still totally in love with Chumphon, Thailand! It was hands down my favorite city in Thailand that I visited. Sadly, we didn’t get to go down any farther south, but I’m still so pleased with how things turned out.

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Let me back up a little bit… I’ve been thinking that life is not ALL good or ALL bad, right? I look back on periods of my life, and can typically say “yeah, that was a terrible time of life” although, that doesn’t mean I still can’t find beauty in those terrible times. The same is true for Chumphon (only the opposite).

In my mind, Chumphon was so magical and fun, and I often forget about the bad times… which is why I love blogging. It gives me a chance to reflect on an event or travel.

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Well, what was wrong with it, then???

The main issue can be boiled down to the fact that I had a very terrible chest infection that did not start to show symptoms until I landed in Thailand. I endured the pain for about a week and a half before deciding that it was too intense and I needed to see a doctor. *more on this later*

I booked a hotel for 3 nights in Chumphon, and it ended up being a very posh, business-like neighborhood (Once I find the name I’ll update it here). We arrived after a 6 hour train ride from Ratchaburi, and were immediately greeted by an adorable group of middle schoolers eager to practice their English. Because it was Christmas time, they asked us questions about the culture surrounding Christmas. One girl did the talking, while the others nodded in excitement and scribbled down notes on what we said. Their teacher stood nearby. (As an ESL teacher, I thought this was the CUTEST thing ever, what a great way for students to get an authentic language experience!) After taking a picture with the kids, we walked for about 10 minutes to our hotel, and immediately I had a funny feeling.

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Mangosteen is the best fruit ever

I don’t expect staff, especially in a foreign country, to always speak English. That was not my problem. My problem was the staff’s attitude toward us as foreigners. I used Google Translate to communicate information, drew a picture, and used gestures, and the young staff (they looked like they were kids) were not amused. We checked into our room, and after sitting on the CONCRETE SLAB bed, I was really off-put. We ended up venturing out to the nearby shopping center, where people stared at us and didn’t smile back when we smiled (where was the friendly people of Thailand that I knew and loved????), got some dinner and then made our way back to the hotel. While trying to sleep, my chest hurt so bad because of the terrible bed. I didn’t sleep all night, and as soon as it was light enough to leave, I decided to book another hotel closer to the beach (but farther from the train station) and THAT’S when we found beauty, kind people and adventure in Chumphon….

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Tiny crab holes like fireworks

I was completely right! Giving the back story to Chumphon doesn’t even give me enough time (or energy) to talk about the good parts, so I PROMISE I will write about the beautiful city soon ❤ (9 months is better than never, right???)

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Sorry, you’re gonna have to wait until the next blog post to see what this is from

I truly can’t wait to show you some of the shots I got while in Chumphon…. stayed tuned ❤

-A

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December 22nd, 2016: Ratchaburi, Thailand

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Although Bangfig3kok was our home base, we began a week long adventure south, with the first stop in Ratchaburi. To be completely honest, I am not sure how I stumbled upon this town; however, I do remember why it stuck out to me so much. Ratchaburi has a rich history with pottery. I read someone’s blog about watching artists hand make beautiful works of art, and that was that! We arrived in the town early evening. It was quiet, and we had a hard time finding a restaurant. We checked into our adorable hotel, and then head out (sweat and all from a long train ride) down the street to the nearest restaurant we could find.

I ordered chicken, and french fries. And I dIMG_0641 (2)on’t know what the significance was, but the french fries came inside of an apple! I did not eat the apple, but I DID feel healthier eating my fries! The chicken was honestly kind of Western seeming, but the sauce they put on it was AMAZING. There were peppercorns, it was kind of spicy (typical Thai). One more thing I remember was how out of place we looked. We hadn’t eaten for hours, it was dark out, and we entered this suburban feeling town, with all of these well dressed Thai people and, well… This is how I looked: IMG_8085Messy bun, you can almost see the sweat on my shirt, and just be thankful you can’t see my face. People kept staring at us, which also may have been because we were speaking English, and looked foreign. In the two days that we were here, we honestly didn’t see any other tourists. Later on at a cafe, someone told us that they see most tourists up north in December, and in the Spring they start to see more tourists in Ratchaburi.

The Hotel: Space 59

We honestly loved this hotel. It was so modern. The pictured I took truly don’t do it any justice. The only bad thing was that it was almost TOO modern. The stairs were so sleek and slippery. I was walking down at a fairly quick pace (I was excited!) and I fell to my butt and hit about 15 steps down along the way. The staff came running out, speaking to me quickly in Thai and I kept saying “I’m okay!” EXCEPT that I just wanted to cry on the inside!! I was sore on my leg, butt and arm the next few days, but I lived.

We ended up spending a LOT of time at Rattanakosin, the pottery company. It took us about 14 minutes on a Tuk Tuk to get there… which is actually pretty far! The Tuk Tuk drivers in Ratchaburi don’t rip you off as much as the ones in Bangkok do. It was HUGE inside. We watched aIMG_8164rtists at work with their dogs sitting next to them. We posed next to the beautiful scraps like hipsters. We bought pottery that would fit inside my backpack (and I carried for the remainder of our stay in Thailand D: so heavy).
<– I bought a vase that looked like one of these, except it was red.

When it was time to leave, we started to walk before realizing it would probably take hours before getting back to town. We asked the staff the best way to get back, and she called a ride for us and helped us get the Thai discount! She had someone finagle the price and ensure that we would pay 50 Baht total for the both of us (the cheaFullSizeRender (3)pest we had ever paid!)

It was so uncomfortable sitting on the motorcycle like this, but this is how
all the girls in Thailand do it!!

DISCLAIMER: I really did like Ratchaburi. It was cute, the people were so nice. There was one thing I really DID NOT like about it though… the wild dogs!!!! We were chased several times by packs of dogs. Every time we turned a corner, a group of dogs were barking at us, with their blood shot eyes. They got close, they growled at us…. my heart pounded in my chest until I could feel it in my throat. I closed my eyes and listened as my travel buddy said “don’t run. They’ll chase us.” I tried my best to keep my calm, but this really upset me for several hours. When we were alone, the dogs chased us up and down the streets. When a native was around, they left us alone. They must have known we were foreign.

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We spent 2 nights in Ratchaburi before hopping back on the train for a new city! Stay tuned!

❤ A

December 18-20th, 2017– Cha Am, Thailand

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I find that the more time I spend back home, the more I miss Thailand. On ocountry_map_thailandur fourth day in Thailand, we traveled down from Bangkok to Cha-Am. All in all, the train ride took us about 4 hours. 4 sweaty hours. We originally only wanted to stay for 1 night, but liked it so much we stayed an extra night! Maybe not my favorite city in Thailand, but definitely gave me some special memories.

The intent on the entire vacation was to avidly avoid all touristy locations as much as possible. All google searches led me to Hua Hin, Pattaya, Pranburi, etc. In a lengthy google search aka desperate attempt at a unique vacation, I stumbled upon Cha-Am: a sleepy beach town overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, only 30 minutes away from Hua Hin (evidently a local favorite!)

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After getting off the train, we immediately found this adorable cafe called Cup Sea Cafe. I ordered caramel toast, some kind of chicken (sorry guys, I don’t remember what it was called) and a delicious Mango smoothie. My travel partner/ real life partner ordered Green Curry (as he did multiple other occasions). All this cost about 200 baht!

We walked for about 30 minutes in peak of the day 90 degree heat, passing sad looking dogs and a caged bird and almost nobody else. There were not many cars, and it didn’t take long to find our beach front hotel… and check out the view!

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Mountains + palm trees are now officially my favorite combination. Everything about this town was quiet, peaceful, cute and sleepy. On our first day, we visited a lovely coffee shop (which we visited the next morning, and the following morning after that — see pictures below), and took an evening stroll on the beach. The beach was rocky, and the board walk honestly hurt to walk on and I didn’t bring shoes!

The beach was admittedly not the best for swimming. One interesting thing I noticed about the beaches in Thailand was that the natives don’t necessarily wear swim suits like we do in Western societies. Many people even wear long pants on days that were 90 degrees…. Americans on the other hand walk around near naked at that temperature (exaggeration, but you know what I mean). I saw some people go in with jeans on, etc.  Actually, many people just stayed in the shade under the umbrellas and watched the water.

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As we said our goodbyes to Cha-Am, we said goodbye to the cute bright colored shops near our hotel and the rocky beach. We decided to travel south for 30 minutes, and get off and check out Hua Hin, the popular touristy beach. Needless to say …. it WAS touristy!

We only stayed for a whopping 2 hours.

 

 

Truly, I didn’t snap too many pictures because there were people ALL over the place, sunbathing in skimpy two pieces or speedos. Seeing this was kind of shocking… just 30 minutes north I didn’t see one person in a swim suit in the 2 days I was there! This made me wonder… do those people venture outside of Hua Hin? Or did their entire vacation consist of this beach? I’ll admit it… it was perhaps prettier than the Cha-Am beach, but the vibes were all wrong. We got right back on the train, and headed back to Bangkok for a day of relaxation and shopping!

Stay tuned for more…..

 

December 17th, 2016: Ayutthaya, Thailand

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Sweet, tropical Thailand…. It’s only been nine days since I left, and my heart aches to be back under your warm sun, eating your delicious food and (dare I say) back on your trains exploring…

On our second day in Thailand, we walked around and found a restaurant. The owner was a young person who spoke great English. He studied in Canada, and asked us about our travels so far, etc. He gave us some advice and explained that we should head to the train station and check out Ayutthaya Historical Park, where we went on the third day. The train ride was only one hour north of Bangkok (it felt long at the time, but it was nothing compared to the 10 hour train ride towards the end of our stay in Thailand).

We arrived fairly early in the day. There were dozens of taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers awaiting the train station, ready to pounce on all the tourists. We walked around for about an hour before I decided to give in and pay someone 200 baht to drive us to the city. Really, the walk was doable, I just couldn’t figure out which route to take to get to the park. The driver was the only girl I encountered as a Tuk Tuk driver. She spent about ten minutes trying to convince me that I needed her for three hours for 600 baht (!!) before dropping me off where I requested for the price I agreed to pay.

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Sometimes this is how I wave to people.

We came on an extraordinarily hot day. I learned to notice that Thai people look fabulous and well put together despite it being a million degrees outside. And in comparison, my eyeliner was running, my hair was damp from sweat and I probably didn’t smell that great.

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Along with everyone else who visits this park, I found that there was beauty in the ruins. Ayutthaya used to be the capital city, an important city for trade and it was attacked by Burma in the 1700s. This Historical park really gave me a good picture on the importance of religion in this culture’s history. Naturally religion is a large part of a culture, but there were temples, and Buddha statues everywhere.

I read somewhere online that Thailand is known as “the land of smiles.” I found that Thai people were honestly the nicest people I have ever met. Perhaps the countries religion has something to do with that — Buddhism is the major religion in Thailand, and the religion promotes peace. (Hm… I know many people in my life who could learn a lesson or two from how these people acted and treated others).

After spending two days in Bangkok, I felt that the break from the hustle and bustle of a big city was much needed. The air didn’t smell like pollution here. There still was quite a bit of traffic, but it wasn’t physically impossible to cross the road. In fact, one of the nice things was that there wasn’t much road traffic in the park, making it easier to get to where you wanted to go.

Before I came to Thailand, I had an image of this park in my head. I saw this image of a Buddha head interwoven into a tree branch on someone else’s blog, and I pictured a fairy-type forest. Mostly, I saw the red brick everywhere. After searching for this darn Buddha in a tree, I asked some people who I thought would speak English if they found it (there were French, and luckily they spoke great English! I really shouldn’t assume that someone speaks English based on what they look like, but desperate times call for desperate measures). Here it is in all it’s glory:

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Finding this was so satisfying. It’s like seeing a story book come to life.

On our way back to the train station, a restaurant owner who spoke broken English asked us where we were going. He gave us directions to get to the train station, although I struggled to understand him. Through body language, I thought I understood, so we headed off in the direction we thought looked right. After a few minutes of walking we were someone calling out at us while running. It was the restaurant owner! He told us, “wrong way! I’ll show you.” And walked with us until we found our way. I was so blown away by how friendly he was, and how helpful. This made me stop and reflect on myself and how I treat others, especially foreigners. Do they feel as welcome in America as I felt in Thailand? I’m not sure….but… my goal after this trip was to try to make sure they do.

Stay tuned for day 4!

-A

Bangkok, December 16, 2016

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Instead of walking at my graduation, I thought it would be more meaningful for me to begin my traveling journey (with my best friend by my side).

We arrived early on December 15th after almost 30 hours on the plane. My initial reaction was terrified: my parents were not supportive of this trip, and they didn’t say goodbye to me before I left. I thought, “maybe this is an omen. Maybe something bad will happen.” And can you blame me?! This was the view from our hotel room:

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iSanook Residence, Bangkok

I imaged Bangkok to be chic, and modern. And, I soon learned that it was…in certain spots, but I am also really glad our hotel was here. It felt very local. The surrounding neighborhood included people who had small businesses in front of their homes selling food, smoothies, fruit, and store goods. We were about a 20 minute walk from the train station– Hua Lamphong, maybe a 40 minute walk from the biggest shopping center I’ve ever seen (it was a dream!).

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Toast Bar, Bangkok

After walking around China Town and getting lost, exploring some temples and meeting some friendly people who seemed excited to practice their English, we found a tiny cute snack restaurant selling toast. Toast is huge in Thailand (and SE Asia in general) and I love them for that. I got waffles this first time we went here (oh yeah we came more than once!). There were two staff people, and one them spoke pretty good English. She had a shaved head, and explained that she just got ordained to be a monk. I’ve never met anyone who’s Buddhist before, and it was just so cool to be immersed in a culture unlike my own and to learn from people like her. She also assumed we never had Thai Iced Coffee before and made us some to try (she was right and it was delicious!)

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Wat Traimit Withhayaram Wora Wiharn, Bangkok

After this TukTuk driver asked to show me a map, circled some touristy places in Bangkok, and tried to convince us that we needed him to drive us (nice try, mister. the pamphlet the hotel gave us warned us about people like you!) we stumbled across this temple where the Golden Buddha is inside. It was perhaps the only touristy thing we did in Bangkok. It was so crowded. I couldn’t get a good shot of the Buddha, and people kept posing for selfies with him and I just couldn’t handle it! I much preferred the less populous places after going here.

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As many people know, I am an animal lover. More specifically, a bird lover. This lady had all these wild birds cooped up in these cages. I bent down to look at them and to feel sorry for them, and next thing I know, she demanding 100 baht, shoving the cage into Nick’s hand and lifted up on the door so the birds could fly free…and I couldn’t even get a good shot because I didn’t have time to adjust the settings on my camera (total rookie move).

Nick says if we were going to pick a name for our trip, it should be: “Wait, let me adjust the settings on my camera.”

I am still learning, and Thailand was the perfect place for me to practice photography.

This was just day 2 of my trip…. stay tuned, it gets WAY better ❤

-A