Throwback Thursday: The Land of Smiles, Thailand

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My mother hates some of the places I go. Every time the destinations get more remote, further from home, more off the beaten path. When I told my mother I was going to Thailand she wasn’t thrilled; it was my first time in Southeast Asia. I had wanted to go to Thailand since I was ten, something on television intrigued my little brain. “Don’t worry Mom, I will be fine”….my standard dialogue before every trip. Little did I know, on this trip would occur my most terrifying experience to date.

For our inaugural trip to Thailand, Anna and I wanted a few nights in Bangkok and then beach time. Ultimately we settled on Ao Nang beach in Krabi, as the price was right and we could take a day trip to Phi Phi island. We took the backpacker overnight bus from Bangkok down to Krabi, which included a 2 hour wait at a random hostel in Bangkok. Here, we met Steffen, who became our new friend over card games, while we killed time.

We finally arrived in Krabi after one of the most memorable bus rides of my life, which included the company of  three British girl, two Aussie boys and a lot of beer. The next day we met up with Steffen again and attempted to take the ferry to Phi Phi Island. However, after a night of buckets, we overslept and missed the boat. Looking at alternatives we decided on Riley Bay, a neighboring beach area, easily reached by long-tail boat.

After a fun day of sun, we decided it was time to head home, planning for dinner and more definitely more buckets. As our long-tail boat started back toward Ao Nang Beach a loud siren pierced through the air. The driver immediately turned the boat in the opposite direction, yelling “Safe safe safe.” A local girl on board explained that was the tsunami siren. Apparently it was the first alarm siren since it had been installed after the tragic 2005 tsunami.

We docked up at a random pier, the three of us were unsure where we were or what to do next. Off the dock I luckily found someone who spoke enough English to explain the situation. There had been earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, a wave was coming and we could find shelter at the school up the hill. A little ways from the water, we decided we were safe enough to stop at a 7-11. If we were gonna die we needed a beer and chips, please don’t judge. With our backpacks loaded with provisions we continued up to the safe zone.

At the school we found several local and tourists, everyone huddled together praying and hoping for more information. Here we found Kung, a wonderful Thai girl, who had a heart of gold and the most beautiful head of jet black hair. After a few minutes we had made friends and she invited us to wait out the warning at her friends place near by. Maybe it was her amazing smile, but the three of us immediately trusted her and found ourselves welcomed into a Thai home.

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We found other tourists here two from Germany, two from Switzerland and another American plus Kung and her friends Peta and Gurth. Together we waited out the night, with chicken sandwiches and good conversation. We bonded together sharing our stories and praying for good news. About this point I realized my mother, if she had caught wind of the tsunami she would lose her mind. There was no signal, it was jammed, the tsunami warning had killed the signal.

Finally hours later, the all clear was given, it was time to consider; where are we, how do we find our hotel? Kung’s friend,a local bartender, graciously piled all of us into the pick up truck and drove us back to Ao Nang beach, otherwise we would have been lost. Later, I got 5 frantic voicemails from my mother, she woke up and turned on the news…”Tsunami in Thailand’! I am pretty sure she lost years of her life in worry that morning. I assured her when the signal returned, I was actually alive, we were safe.

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Fast forward two days later, checking into our flight back to Bangkok at Krabi airport; we find Kung, Gurth and Peta, sitting waiting for their flights. Hugs exchanged, we added each other to Facebook, promising to keep in touch. Years later we have now been to Thailand five (me) and seven (Anna) times more, every single time we have seen Kung. We once correlated business trips in Germany and met for dinner. This memory is why I feel in love with Thailand. This country is called the land of smiles for a reason, we have found the brightest of all the smiles in a friend named Kung. Many people ask, why we continued to return to this country so often. First impressions are everything, my first impression of Thailand was this….

 

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THAILAND. GO!

Vana Nava Hua Hin Water Jungle 

Honestly, the enticement is in the name alone, but that alone would make for a boring blog. Here’s our top favorite things about Vana Nava and few things you should know. Put eleven best friends in a water jungle with pre paid bracelets for food and alcohol and you’ve got a full day of great success. I must confess that somewhere over the last decade I lost my love for roller coasters and thrill rides, however give me a lazy river with a pool bar with my favorite people and I’m in. Vana Nava has a rope course, wave runner, splash park and wave pool; there is absolutely something for everyone. Here is what you need to know:

1. Don’t think for one second that i wasn’t tricked into going down one of the scariest tube rides of my life.

2. Absolutely invest in the locker. It costs extra, but you have free continuous access and you not only want to be hands free for the rides, but you have to be.

3. Which brings me to number 3. They are actually pretty strict about being hands free so hide your sunglasses, go pros and just about anything else loose. I was absolutely jealous of boys with cargo boy shorts. (We need pockets in our bikinis!)

4. Drinks always cost more at any theme park, but I believe the prices weren’t unreasonable considering the location.

5.  If you’re a drinker… know there are hours where you can’t drink. If you’ve been to Thailand then you already know that time falls in the middle of the day. Properly prepare yourself and remember in #2 where I mentioned unlimited in and out locker privileges. Do what you want with that information.

6. There are frequent customer cards and group rates which of course gets you a cheaper rate. But as travelers we just had a one time entry fee of 28 USD plus towel and locker fees. Absolutely worth the day.

Click see our day at the water park!

We had a lovely day of celebrating our friends birthday. The lines where short, the rides were exhilarating, even the food court was tasty. We not only recommend it but we would all go back in a heart beat!

~By: Julie

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Khaosan Road: Get Bangkok’d


For those of you who love the movie ‘The Beach’….This is where in Bangkok that Richard obtains that famous map from Daffy, which leads him to “paradise” The way he describes this street is accurate and if you are looking for a place to start your afternoon and finish at 7 am the next morning this is it.

After landing from the USA, we immediately proceed to Khaosan Center bar, known in our circle as “Merry Christmas bar” for our traditional tower of Chang and spring rolls! From there it’s a parade down the street as we stop at various bars for buckets as the Thai DJs remix the European EDM hits!!!! By 4 am it’s time to hit up a tuk tuk to Spicy night club that will keep us going to sun up! Time to sleep for a few hours before basking in the sun at our fav rooftop pool….

 

~By:  Amanda

Goin’ Up, On a Tuesday: Khao San Road part Deux, Green House Restaurant

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As we sit in our unofficial hometown of Bangkok, we have two recommendations for dining in the Khao San Road area. Once you are over pad Thai and curry, this restaurant has the best Mediterranean food you can find in the party district. Julie and I like to split a pizza and the Greek salad, because beer is not part of the vegetable group! That being said, our friends have had zero complaints after sampling the pasta, Thai and seafood dishes. The ambiance is lit with colorful lanterns and Christmas lights and every cocktail is served with a beautiful flower garnish! Located on the walking street Rambutri adjacent to Khao San, this is definitely a go for dining with different and delicious flavors at backpacker prices!


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Green House Restaurant 88,84-1 Rambutri St. Talat-Yod Bangkok, Thailand +02 281 4293 www.greenhousebbk.com

~By: Amanda

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Goin’ Up, On a Tuesday: Bangkok Edition, Khaosan Central 


If you are backpacker, enjoy a ratchet circus or want the most authentic Thai food you can order at 1 am, then Khao San Central is the place for you. Nicknamed the  “Merry Christmas Bar” because usually they forget to take down their Christmas decorations before April. Our group has a tradition of always spending our inaugural night in Bangkok here, with cold Chang towers and spring rolls to get the party started. Boasting one of the best DJs on Khao San Road, the open patio is the best place to take in the sights and plan the rest of your night

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  • Khao San Central Bar, Khao San road, Bangkok
    I don’t have a website or phone number, because I don’t they exist. Just look for the Khao San Central signs out half way down the road, across from 7-11.

~By:  Amanda

This photo is blurry for a reason!

Baller on a Budget: “Help me, I’m Poor”

~By:  Amanda


We wish we could afford a fancy hotel, however we know how to find a fancy hotel and use it to our advantage or basically profit from their pool. This usually only works with small groups 2-4 max, as to not attract too much attention. So sorry for the guys, this trick is easier for those of us with assets in the chest region.


Looking that part is key, wear your new bathing suit, the one without beer stains and a proper cover up. Take off the backpacker bracelets and maybe add some mascara for effect. Walk in the front door like a boss, you stay here, right? Stroll in like you have a room and veer off in that direction. Never make a beeline to the pool or come in off the beach, the staff will target you right away. Be causal, but scope out the area, pretend as you just checked in, find the best spot with the least amount of possible staff interaction. Julie and I are currently sitting at the adult pool at the Marriott in Hua Hin Thailand, our guesthouse pool is a cement hole, this one as has water slides! We choose this particular spot as the lounge chairs already had towels neatly laid out and not a staff member to be seen. The word to use here is stealth, we belong here, yes?

Karma can bite you in the butt or almost….on our tour of the grounds to find that ideal location, a snake fell from a tree just 2 feet ahead of where I was walking and slithered into the children’s pool. This is terrifying, because if the Marriott is not safe, nothing really is.

I usually buy one drink at the pool bar, this will give you a bit of street cred with the pool staff. After that refill with pre-mixes you packed in a water bottle. Fun and clean day, just watch out for the old men with  beards and boobs! Word to the wise, if questioned get up and leave, don’t buy anything with out paying for it, we all know how Broke Down Palace ends…

Read more about our Thailand Adventures, we have a lot….

Way too Wanderlust Reccommends 

Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa: 107/1 Phetkasem Road, Hua Hin 77110 Thailand +66 32 904 666 www.mariott.com

 

Phi Phi Boat Cruise 

~By:  Amanda

Having a large posse of travel buddies definitely has its benefits. While vacationing on The Phi Phi islands in Thailand, our group of 11 allowed us to affordably rent a private speed boat to visit the neighboring islands. After negotiating with several travel agencies on Phi Phi Don we rented a boat and hired a two man crew for approximately 11,500 Thai bhat, after math about $30 per person. Before heading out for our trip, we stocked up on snacks and a lot of beer. Our itinerary included Bamboo and Monkey islands, before speeding off to deeper waters for snorkeling. Snorkeling equipment was provided with the boat.


Our last stop was the famous Phi Phi Lee, which is the beautiful and uninhabited island, where a bulk of the movie Thek Beach was filmed. Here we spent the remainder of the day playing in the clear shallow waters and sunning on the white sand beach.


The interior of the island is a small sandbar seated between two towering limestone rocks. Here you can explore the national park and visit the memorial for the travelers camping on the island when the 2005 tsunami hit. Our wonderful boat crew concluded our day with a snack of fresh, delicious pineapple! If you can gather a large enough crew to make a private boat tour of the Phi Phi islands, we highly recommend this option as you can tailor your itinerary and enjoy the scenic islands in a far more intimate setting!

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Koh Phi Phi: Never Never Land

~By:  Julie

Sometimes you come across a place so magical that it changes your life forever. The first time I went to Phi Phi, I knew immediately that not only did I belong there but that I would be back as fast as I physically could. I was right, not even 4 months later I booked another trip and extended my stay. From the time you see the island from your boat in the distance, you know this place is different. It’s the energy, the beauty, the people; it’s magical. There are no cars and no motorbikes, which in itself sets it apart from the rest of Thailand.

Whether you are going to Phi Phi to escape from life, to honeymoon, to party, to explore; there is literally something for everyone. I think I’ve been maybe 5 times and I still have so many things on my to do list. I’ve done the half moon parties, I’ve hiked to the viewpoint, I’ve done the day trips to Monkey Beach and Maya Bay. I’m hoping this year to swim with the glowing plankton at night.

Whether you come in from Krabi or Phuket, you need to know the ferry schedule. The ferries stop running early. I made this mistake the first time and trust me, I will never make that mistake again. I don’t really do mornings but I guarantee you that unless you wanna spend the night in Krabi or Phuket, you better get your butt on that early flight or you will be stuck paying 70 USD a person for a speed boat in the middle of the night and I’m gonna put that into category of the dumbest and scariest things I’ve ever done. We just wanted to be there and we had already booked this amazing 5 star hotel and we didn’t want it to go to waste.

They say hind sight is 20/20… I’d have to agree. I feel extremely safe in Thailand, almost all the time. Regardless, you have to use your street smarts and intuition. When the sun was up the speed boat seemed like a great idea. Once the sun went down and we were slamming over the waves in pitch black dark and holding on for dear life as the wind and water smacked us in the face, we realized maybe we made a terrible mistake. At some point I realize there are only 3 of us girls and 3 local boat guys and my brain got the best of me. We’ve never even been to Phi Phi yet so we had no idea where we are going, if we would recognize it if we saw it, if these guys were gonna sell us as sex slaves and no one back home had any real idea where we were at all either. I sat there on the boat speeding through heavy waves in the Andaman sea, thinking about how I’m probably gonna go pretty cheap as a sex slave cause I’m over 30 and I have way too many tattoos and piercings marking up the goods. I’m thinking how I fell the night before in Bangkok down wet stairs on Khaosan Road and my entire left butt cheek resembles a giant nebula of a bruise.

What felt like a lifetime (probably 4-5 hours) later, I saw what I prayed was Phi Phi in the distance. I never understood kissing the ground before, until then. All that said, I highly recommend the morning ferries where you can drink, relax, claim a spot to sun bathe for a 2 hour ferry ride and make friends from all over the world. We were so unprepared. Besides booking a hotel, we didn’t really know much else. When you get off the boat there are HOARDS of people with signs trying to get you to book a room at their hotel. This is the trip we learned that the less booking you do beforehand, the better. Apparently our hotel was WAY on the other side of the island, and after the day we had, the hike felt not just unnecessary but brutal. The hotel was worth it tho. It was so beautiful and a bed and a shower rejuvenated us enough to go explore a little night life.

Through our many journeys thru Phi Phi we found a hotel we try to always stay at now. We still like the night life but also our quiet time. Right in the center of the scene is a place called Tara Inn. It’s clean, spacious,  has hot water, is quiet, and affordable. The owner always makes us feel so welcome when we come back. It feels like home. It’s located by the Banana Bar which is great for the beginning of a chill night. You climb up two stories of winding, frightening stairs and on top they have chairs and screens and show movies. Everyone eats Mexican food, margaritas, and finds a small section to get cozy for the movie.

If you aren’t interested in the nightlife, the other side of the island on Long Beach is basically honeymoon central. It’s beautiful. I’ll walk down to that end to swim and drink fresh coconuts. You can plan so many different types of excursions and day trips. It’s absolutely mandatory to take a day trip to Maya Bay. A good portion of the movie “The Beach” was filmed there in 2000 but after the tsunami in 2005, you can only go there for day trips. It is the softest sand I’ve ever felt in my entire life. There is a memorial in the jungle for the campers that died. It’s really haunting.

There are plethora of good places to eat and drink. You will discover those on your own. Phi Phi is a small enough island. Everyone has been to Stockholm Syndrome, played beer pong at Dojos, danced at Slinkys, Stoned Bar, Ibiza House, and the Reggae bar (where after enough buckets of Sangsom, you will feel inspired to try Muay Thai boxing or at least watch people with absolutely no fighting skills compete against each other to win another free bucket of Sangsom.) You will absolutely end up on the beach dancing all night at Slinkys; watching the fire dancers, getting painted with glow in the dark paint, making friends, meeting future ex lovers, watching testosterone- hyped men compete to climb up wooden poles and trying to impress the women. You might even have enough buckets that you will even jump through a fire hoop or a fire blazed jump rope. Never say never and don’t underestimate the power of the bucket.

Phi Phi takes hold of you if you let it. We started making friends that had abandoned everything to move there full time. Friends who had to pass out fliers at night to pay for last nights bar tab and tomorrows hostel bed. Mornings in Thailand are my personal favorite. I love having my breakfast Chang and watching everyone crawl out from whatever hole (sometimes quite literally) they crawled into the night before. The decisions of tattoos, the lines coming out of the clinics of people with burns from the fire hoops and broken bones. None of that matters when you are in paradise. Nothing matters there. Everything is always going to be ok. It’s hard to leave. Sometimes I wouldn’t leave until we committed to a date for the next trip. You are going to have life experiences that people at home will never believe and you will make friendships that last a life time… bonded through inexplicable experiences and magic.

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