Diaries Around the World: 6 Months!
OMG guys. I cannot begin to describe how crazy it is to write the fact I’ve been on the road for longer than 6 months! Before planning this trip I kept telling people, “who knows…I only might make it on the road 3-6 months total before getting homesick or running out of money.” I’m happy to say I’m still truckin’ along!
A lot has happened since I last wrote 3 months ago and I want to fill you in on as much as I can. The reason I’ve been so MIA on the blog is because 1. I’ve had a lot of friends come to meet me in SE Asia, 2. I’ve made a lot of friends, 3. I’m lazy and when I get a free moment, I sleep, 4. I went to a coding camp and learned to code, 5) I went to a silent retreat.
So now I’m going to fill you in on my month in Thailand, my 3 weeks in Laos and my 5 days in Malaysia. I stayed exactly one month in Thailand and seriously can’t wait to go back and explore more. From Thailand I took the slow boat over to Laos and had an amazing experience and stayed for about 3 weeks and then went and chilled out for a bit in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia before heading over to Indonesia! Here we gooo…
After my last post in Cyprus I headed to Bangkok to meet my friends Carly and Katie from SF. I got a 1 month visa and decided to stay in Thailand until it ran out. Before they got there I stayed over by Koh San Road and went out to have the typical Bangkok going-out experience. I drank a bucket (the famous thing to do in Thailand), went to a ping-pong show :|, and ate a scorpion. It was a pretty crazy night, but I feel like I experienced the wild side of Bangkok!Once Katie and Carly arrived we checked into our amazing AirBnB (I have a $40 off coupon if anyone wants to try) in Sukhumvit area. It was soooo great to see friends from home! I almost cried when I saw them it was so fun. We got massages, went to the floating markets, checked out all of the temples on a scorching hot day, swam in our rooftop pool, had dinner by the water, went to rooftop bars and walked around the markets. It was a fun few days! And to all of the people who say to skip Bangkok while in Thailand I 100% disagree! I really liked it a lot and if you don’t like it, then you’re not hanging out in the right areas in my opinion. I’m also creating a post with all of the recommendations I have as well!After Bangkok we flew to Chiang Mai where we got even more massages, chilled by the pool at our hotel, took a windy tuk tuk truck to Doi Suthep temple and went to an elephant sanctuary. The elephant sanctuary (Baanchang Elephant Park) was definitely a highlight for me and getting to be that close to elephants was super special. We also did a cooking class with Thai Orchid cookery school and it was phenomenal. They took us to the market for our ingredients and we got to make some really great Thai dishes.After Chiang Mai we headed to Koh Lanta and met up with Shay (our other friend coming from Dublin ) at the airport. It was SOOO nice to be on Thai beaches and be with my friends. Koh Lanta is a really chill island so we relaxed a bit, got buckets by the water, did yoga by the beach and swam in the crystal clear water. We also did an amazing snorkel tour from Koh Lanta that took us to tiny islands surrounding the big island. The snorkeling was amazing and the coolest part was getting to go to the Emerald Cave below!I got super sick the week I was with my friends which was soooo annoying. I had some sort of food sickness that I couldn’t shake and had a few “situations” that my gf’s and I laugh about now, but NOT funny at the time. 😐After Koh Lanta we headed to Railay Beach which is close to Krabi. It was just what I pictured Thai beaches to look like with the limestone cliffs and long tail boats. I’m glad my Osprey bag converts from a roller bag to a backpack because in order to get to the beach you have to hop in the water and literally walk up the beach with a backpack on your back. If you go to SE Asia it’s much easier with a backpack.On Railay we did more chilling, got massages, watched the sunset, went to some sweet bars on the water and ate fresh seafood. I will note here that Thailand toilets are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. And that’s saying something cause I’ve seen some real shitty ones…no pun intended. 🙂One day on Railay we decided to take a day trip Koh Pi Pi. We all thought this was somewhat of a mistake because it was soooo hot and sooo smelly and the tides were out so the beaches looked disgusting. I really kind of hated Koh Pi Pi, but people have told me they love it so to each his own I guess. Not going back though. We did hike up to the lookout which was nice, but I preferred the one on Koh Tao better.
It was really sad to say goodbye to my friends! While traveling it’s so nice to be in your comfort zone and it was difficult for me to say bye and be back on my own again. I’ve noticed this happens quite often after I have friends visit or make a good group of friends and have to say goodbye.After Railay and a night in Krabi I took the bus over to Surat Thani area so I could get a ferry to the island of Koh Tao. My plan was to get diving certified here. It’s one of the most popular and cheapest places in the world to get diving certified. I LOVED Koh Tao so much. It’s definitely my favorite island in Thailand. I ended up extending my stay there and stayed about 10 days.My diving certification was definitely the highlight. I did it through Ocean Sound Diving and Yoga and it was amazing. It cost me about $270 USD to get the certification which included 3 nights to stay in their private huts.At first I was nervous to dive, but then after the first day I got the hang of being under the water. It’s such a surreal feeling! It was really a fun experience and I couldn’t wait to go diving again after seeing what you get to see down there!I also learned how to ride a motor bike on Koh Tao from a German guy I met who was a pro. It was soo scary, but so fun. We biked around the whole island and went to tons of lookouts and beaches. I’m glad I learned here cause it helped me later when I biked all the way from Chiang Mai to Pai and again in Laos.Another highlight was heading to the island off of Koh Tao called Nangyuan Island with my diving buddy. The water and beach were out of a movie. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. We did a short walk up to the top and got incredible views! Highly recommend this if you go to Thailand.I wouldn’t have left Koh Tao if I wasn’t meeting Mikael (Icelandic guy I traveled the Middle East with) in Koh Phangan for the Half Moon party. I was sad to leave my newly made friends in Koh Tao and head to Koh Phangan, but sometimes you need things to look forward to to keep you moving along.I made it to Koh Phangan and honestly didn’t see ANY of the island. The day I got there I was hung over and couldn’t do much besides sit by the hostel pool. Then it was time to get ready for the Half Moon party so we started drinking at the hostel. It was super fun! I think that was more fun that the festival itself. It was pretty cool inside though and all decorated like a jungle party which I found pretty sweet. If I were traveling again to Thailand I probably wouldn’t plan my trip around this party though…
The next day I literally did nothing and felt rather sick again from the buckets I had so I didn’t do anything again. It’s sort of a bummer because I didn’t see much of Koh Phangan and feel like I need to go back to truly experience it minus the half or full moon party.
After Koh Phangan Mikael and I took a flight up to Chiang Mai to stay one night before heading up to Pai on motorbikes. We rented them and drove the 3 hours up the windy roads to Pai. It was really worth it and I was glad to ride a scooter vs. taking the vans. I probably would have gotten super car sick because there are 900 something turns along the road!Pai was amazing and had super hippy vibes. I wish I had longer to stay here, but I was coming up on the end of my visa so only could stay a couple days. We toured around to see a hot springs, some waterfalls, the famous Pai Canyon and just chilled out watching the views. I also met a couple from Greenland which I thought was so amazing since there are only 56k ppl in the whole country! What are the odds?We also hit up the sticky waterfalls on the way home from Pai and it was incredible cause you could legit climb right up them. We were there with barely any tourists and we were having the time of our lives climbing up and down the falls. I wish I could have chilled out here longer, but had to head back to Chiang Mai to get the slow boat over to Laos!We scootered all the way back and the scenery was pretty amazing. I love driving my own scooter and being able to stop whenever I want to check everything out.The final day of my Visa I took a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai to see the white temple (so cool btw) and then to the border of Thailand and Laos. It was really cool because there were two mini-buses that were traveling together and were together for the full 4 days of the trip. We got to know each other really well and traveled a bit together after we got to Laos.
Above is the slow boat in Laos!
We crossed the border into Laos after getting our Visa’s at the border. Then we got transferred over to a boat where we ended up winding along the river for 2 days on a slow boat. This was super fun and it was cool to do it with the same group we started with. We all went out together a few nights and explored together before finally making it to Luang Prabang which was our final destination.The landscape on the river was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was such a nice change to be in the middle of nowhere after coming from tourist ridden Thailand. The Laos people are really kind and really laid back. Luang Prabang was also one of the coolest places I’ve been on my travels. I loved how beautiful it was. The night market was amazing and the scenery was incredible.
After a night there I waited the next day for my friend Lauren to join me for 2 weeks from San Francisco. It was soon fun to see her and I was so excited to stay in hotels for a change up from hostels. 🙂
We explored Luang Prabang a bunch, checked out the monks walking all over the city, and then met up with my slow boat crew at the bars. We also ended up booking a trek through the mountains and villages of Laos with the slow boat crew for 2 days.
The Kuang Si waterfalls were one of Lauren and my highlights of the area surrounding Luang Prabang. They were the biggest and bluest waterfalls I’ve ever seen and we swam in them and it was magical. I highly recommend visiting as they are unlike any waterfall I’ve been to.
Finally it was time for our trek and our homestay with Tiger Trails. We first hiked for about 6 hours the first day through remote villages and landscape of Laos and can I just say OMG! The scenery was stunning! Literally untouched and beautiful mountains and jungle. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We stopped in two villages on the way to ours and one had no running water or electricity. The people were super dirty and they had so so many animals. It was fascinating to see because they were super smiley and happy and sold us their homemade goods. It was so rural that you can only get there by hiking in because there aren’t any roads!
We finally made it to our homestay after a lot of up and down hiking. We stayed in little huts with mosquito nets and the family cooked for us. This village had a road, but was situated against a gorgeous mountain cliff. I was in awe the whole time! They made us their local food for dinner and then we got to drink their wine from a big ceramic pot. Later we learned that this is the old way of drinking and fermenting wine from Laos and is still used heavily in villages.
This was seriously an amazing cultural experience for me to see in Laos and I didn’t want it to end! After our homestay we went to two more waterfalls (Tad Se but it was dried up) and then kayaked back towards Luang Prabang for a few hours. We saw a bunch of elephants crossing the river and saw some beautiful scenery. We even hit a few rapids!
I jinxed myself and said out loud “I hope someone fall out of their kayak so I can laugh at them.” and then of course Lauren and I hit a rapid on the last couple feet before the ending point and tipped our kayak and everything (including my dry bag with my camera and phone in it went floating down the river). Thank god for our guides who saved everything for us! It was a site to see and it was pretty funny looking back. The only thing he couldn’t salvage was my SF Giants hat…RIP!
Lauren ended up getting super sick from something we had eaten at some point and so she was be ridden for a few days. We just laid low and then she bucked up and we went to a Laotian cooking class. I thought it was really good food and so fun, but poor Lauren was trying not to vomit the whole class. She finally got better and then in the next couple days we took a van to our next town of Vang Vieng!
The bus ride here was TERRIBLE. The roads were super windy and pot holes everywhere. Our driver was driving like a bat out of hell and it was miserable. I started to feel sick halfway through and at first thought it was car sickness which I rarely get. Then I realized I was actually sick with what Lauren had and it just hit me later. I threw up all over the van. Whoops and sorry to the 4 other passengers :(.
We FINALLY made it to Vang Vieng thank god and I just went immediately to sleep. Our hotel the Elephant Crossing hotel was incredible! I couldn’t have asked for a better view of Vang Vieng. We literally watched hot air balloons go past our window at sunset with the limestone cliffs and river in the background. Doesn’t get much better than that.
We met up with some of the slow boat crew and hung out and one day rented bikes to tour around the valley. We went to 2 of the blue lagoons surrounding and drove on the SUPER shitty roads through a few villages which was fun. I was just happy to finally feel better again.
A trip to Vang Vieng wouldn’t be complete without a boozy tube float down the river so Lauren and I saddled up after both of us were sick and bought booze to pre-funk in the room. I felt like I was back in college. We filled up water bottles with our mixture of watermelon vodka and sprite and coconut water (EWW!! do not recommend) and went to the float. It was actually super fun. I can’t imagine what it used to be like before they shut down all of the bars, but we still had fun at the 3 bars they left open. The views floating were incredible and that was super worth it.
We eventually made it to Vientiane where we stayed at a swanky hotel and checked out the night market but mostly just walked around and vegged out. We saw some cool temples and then took a day trip to Buddha Park which was the coolest part of the area. I couldn’t believe these ancient structures.
Eventually Lauren had to leave after a freakin’ amazing trip. it was so sad to see her go and once again I was back by my lonesome. I decided to book an extra night at the hotel so I could chill out at work on my pre-course work for my coding camp in Bali (more on that later).
The next day I had a flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia before my coding camp started. I wanted to spend more time traveling in Laos, but unfortunately they have pretty bad roads and public transportation, plus no airport in the south so it didn’t make sense for me to stay here before Bali. Instead I got a cheap flight to Kuala Lumpur for 5 days and then flew on a cheap flight to Denpasar in Bali.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
I landed in KL really tired from all that go-go-go in Laos. I had a plan to pack in a few more things in Malaysia than just Kuala Lumpur, but was too lazy and just stayed here to chill out for 5 days. It was sooo nice.
I was really feeling anti-social before I got to the hostel. I told myself I wasn’t going to speak to anyone and not make any friends. Literally the next day there I met a group of 6 friends. Haha it’s hard to NOT people in hostels….I’m telling you.
I explored a few of the malls, saw the towers lit up at night and went to the night markets with a guy I met who is traveling to all of the countries in the world. So cool! The group of friends all went out to a few rooftop bars the next night and a few tequila shots later….we were having a blast.
I saw the KL bird park which was actually pretty cool. Not worth the $20 but cool nonetheless. I also got to see more malls (they have a big mall culture) and then hung out a ton at this hipster cafe I found called VCR with some strong wifi and caught up a bit on blogging and life.
More on my Indonesia experience later. I just spent a month there and had a blast. For those of you who are confused as I was…. Bali is an island in the country of Indonesia. 🙂 I spent most of my time on Bali and then swapped over to the Gili islands which are owned by the island of Lombok which is right next to Bali. Indonesia unfortunately only gives out 1 month visas or I would have easily spent 2 or 3 months there exploring!
Until next time!!