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belle isle virginia richmond

Recently, I went traveled to Richmond to visit some family. I had some time to adventure, so I went to Belle Isle.

Everywhere I go, I find a Greenbelt on steroids. Rushing waters, suspension bridges, reflecting lakes, and giant leaves- just some things that set Belle Isle a part from the Greenbelt. But similar to the GB- it’s busy in the summer, you can boulder, and there are trails for days. I don’t think I adventured it all, and if I spent more time here, I would definitely go on a run. Richmond, VA: I didn’t think there was much to adventure beyond Civil War memorials (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I’m glad I found this place.

It’s so dreamy and tranquil.

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I know I haven’t been blogging much, and there’s a reason! If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking around.

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It’s up to you! *Wink*

…Just kidding. Unless no one else is around, then say it however you’d like!

I was in Phuket for 3 days. You usually hear of: Koh Phi Phi or Phi Phi Don or Krabi, they’re all in the same area. But with the knowledge I have now, I think I would go to Krabi over Phuket (and I haven’t been to Krabi). I just have a feeling it’s more worthwhile.

Most of our days featured: reading by the pool or beach, sunbathing by the pool or beach, or eating by the pool or beach. We spent one full day doing an island-hopping tour via “Captain Mark’s Phuket Sailing Tours*.” It was fun, but LONG because it started at ~ 7AM and ended ~5PM?
Anddd I didn’t take many pictures on the tour because I was afraid of getting too excited and dropping my phone at the bottom of the ocean.

*Captain Mark’s Phuket Sailing Tour included visiting: Phi Phi Don, Monkey Beach, Viking Cave, Phileh Lagoon, Loh Samah Bay (my fav I think, the least crowded), Maya Bay.” This tour was a little pricey, but it was a whole day and included food, drinks, and workings snorkeling gear. The captain was cool and the staff were really helpful and nice. I definitely felt more safe here than when we did snorkeling in Bali.

Other Notes About Phuket:

  • I’m still not sure how to pronounce “Phuket.”I’m going with “poo-ket.”
  • One clear, beautiful beach can change a person (me).
  • Snorkeling PROTip: Take a piece of fruit (i.e. a banana) in the water with you. Fishies will come to you!! It’s a weird and awesome phenomena.
  • There are a lot of lady boys.
  • It’s more expensive in these tourist-heavy areas. Meaning when I paid 30 baht for Pad See Ew in BKK, I paid 80 baht for the same thing in Phuket.
  • ALWAYS HAGGLE for clothes and souvenirs.

Here are some of the pics that I did take…

phuket evening

Phuket in the PM

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Beach

On the Phuket Sailing Tour

On the Phuket Sailing Tour

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Sunsets on Gili Air Island are a game changer.
Tide pools on Gili Air Island are a game changer.
Snorkeling? Not so much. I almost died (I wrote a little bit about it in my Bali post).

BUT THE BEACH. Holy hell, the beach is one in a million. This one wins. Not only is the beach beautiful and clear, the island we were on gave us our little piece of island/swim area. Maybe 10 people total were beaching, and it was glorious. We didn’t do much except read, sun, and swim. You can see your feet in that water, it’s awesome. I would recommend wearing some sort of water sandal (I wore my chacos), unless you want to get gnarly exfoliation from the coral/rocks/etc. #nofilter, seriously.
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Fun Fact: Did you know there are 3 different Gili islands? I didn’t. I was not informed, nor did I look it up. Negligent, much? Maybe…but I think my mistake was a blessing in disguise. Gili T, the most popular island of the three was bumpin’…and I was not feeling it. Maybe Gili T is amazing, I didn’t spend too much time there, but it’s definitely “the party island.”

ProTips for Gili Island:

  1. Don’t forget that there are 3 islands, and make sure you know which island you booked your stay on. This is speaking from experience.
  2. Take a speedboat there because it will only take you 1-1.5 hours. Or did you want to take the 6-8 hours slow boat ride?
  3. If you get motion sickness, take Dramamine.
  4. Yeah, people will try and sell you ‘shrooms, so…watch yourselves.
  5. Don’t go snorkeling on a boat here, you might drown like I almost did. Unless someone recommended the tour to you, the boat crew might overload their boat’s maximum capacity.

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I blogged zero times last week, shame on me… It was a peak-and-valley-type week, and I’m still learning how to my budget time better. Budgeting time should have been taught as a UGS class at UT, am I right Longhorns (and everyone on the planet)?

During my SE Asia trip, I spent a hot second in Chiang Mai, which is north (NORTH) of Bangkok. And there are a couple of things that I will never forget about that place: Op, the elephants, how it reminds me of the PNW, and the vom.

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Op. She was the owner of the hostel we stayed at in Chiang Mai. It’s called “Banilah” and their lobby is a cat cafe. There were 6 cats roaming around while you had your tea and coffee. Op sat us down gave us the lowdown in Chiang Mai before settled in. She told us where to eat authentic northern Thai food (Tong), where to get ice cream (iBerry), where the university was, etc. She had two maps for us and color coded everything. You could tell that Op loved stationary…and loved to sass. She was the best hostess we ever had in Thailand, and it was a sad time when we had to leave.

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The elephants. I touched one, it was so real.

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The PNW. The rain, mountains, and green- how could it not remind of me of the Pacific Northwest? It was a touch hotter and tropical, but when we were trekking, there were cooler temperatures.You had to be there. So I will name Chiang Mai as “Thailand’s PNW.” And though I haven’t ventured all of Thailand’s regions, I think Chiang Mai is my favorite.

The Vom. So I don’t think I vommed here, but I experienced a lot of motion sickness. Between the trekking cars and winding roads, my body stood no chance to nausea. I took a lot of Dramamine during the portion of this trip.

Bonus story about Chiang Mai: Special to northern Thailand, there is a noodle soup dish called “khao soi.” As per Op’s suggestion, we left our hostel to go find a restaurant that sold it. After roaming for what seemed like 20 minutes and finding out that our map was not to scale, Tommy asked a Thai woman for directions to the place. Instead of telling us directions, she took us to the restaurant herself! She even helped us order, making sure we were okay before she left on her way. Where was she going? I don’t know. Did we interrupt her or bother her? I’m not sure, she seemed smile-y. Regardless, bless her for helping us and bless khao soi because it was nothing like I had ever eaten.

I’ll be back for you Chiang Mai. You and your elephants, your polite Thai people, and Op.

Sidebar: If you like my pictures, I take lots of them, put a filter on, and post them to this thing called Instagram.

Thanks for stickin’ around,

Thu

What can I say about BKK?

There are a lot of temples.
There is a lot of haggling.
You will still probably get ripped off.
At least the food is cheap.

That’s Bangkok in short. In long? -Deep breath- Here we go, my thoughts are scattered.

Collectively, I think we spent 3-5 days in Bangkok, Thailand. We stayed in hostels, not on Khao San Road. You can stay there if you want, it’s a busy, busy road and “backpacker haven.” I resent it. Yeah, I resent a whole road.

We concluded that the ice was safe to drink, but always buy/drink bottled water.
thailand temple
You don’t even have to try to see temples and you will probably run into one. That being said, I wouldn’t pay to go to the Grand Palace…but we did. This is one way I felt like I got “ripped off.” Once you see one temple, you’ve seen them all. Gold, large, ornate, etc etc etc.

IMG_0666Transportation. We did it all except motorbikes: taxis, tuk-tuk’s, ferries, slow boats, and fast boats. Taxis reign supreme and they’re cheap if you’re traveling with other people. Always ask for meters or you’re basically consenting to getting ripped off. (Do you sense a theme?)

Co Van Kessel Bike tour. Yes, this is actually a dutch bicycle touring company. We did the 3-hour tour and it was pretty fun. We biked through a lot of alleyways and saw a lot of the city in a short amount of time. Somehow, I find myself on a bike everywhere I go.

Tours, in general. I’m not a fan. They are exhausting, they start too early, and you don’t get to do what you want. We did some tours, and after experiencing good and bad ones-meh.

IMG_0679JJ’s Market and markets in general. They are overwhelming. It’s like Portland’s Saturday Markets + Pike Place Market + French Quarter Market + Rose Bowl Market…on steroids. There is so much stuff. You haggle, you eat, and then you haggle some more. Gold teapots, Buddha’s, sarongs, scarves, fried tofu, it’s all at the market.

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Lastly, the food. It can be expensive, if you’re lazy. If you’re willing to roll like the locals, it will be dirt cheap and the best thing you’ve ever eaten. Pad See Ew for 30 Baht (which is like $1 USD)? I hopped on the cheap food train quickly, even though I sat in an alleyway and no one spoke English. It makes me think, “DAMN IT, why would I ever pay $12/ plate in the US?” The kicker is that I probably will…in a month. For now, I want to stuff myself full of breakfast tacos, El Milagro tortilla chips, Trudy’s margaritas, P. Terry’s burgers, and Whataburger everything.

There is a lot to be said about Bali.

That being said, I’m sorry if this gets a little lengthy. If you’re interested in going to Bali, I hope you sift through my rhetoric and find this helpful (and funny). Coming from the hustle and bustle of BKK, Bali was a nice break.

rice paddies bali

We start in Ubud, which is central-y Bali. Rural, rice paddies, and relaxing-ish. Ubud is probably my favorite city in Bali. I discovered this after visiting Kuta. PROTip: I wouldn’t go to Kuta if I were you, that place is SketchVille. Go to Gili Island if you want to see some clear waters. PROTip: There are three Gili Islands.

Let me tell you about the time I cried at the Goa Gajah Temple. Cujean and Tommy made me climb an ant-ridden rock. And these ants must have been given growth hormones. I was not into it. Aside from that though, this place was like the Greenbelt on steroids. Think: lush, green, trails, and rushing waterfalls.

goa gajah temple

Or let me tell you about the time we climbed Mt. Batur. I cried here too.
From altitude sickness (maybe).
This also could have been from the fact that we woke up at 2AM to climb Mt. Batur.
And it could have also been from the (dark) uphill battle and fibs from our tour guide who kept saying, “only 20 more minutes,” at least 5 times.
I definitely cried a little bit from the sunrise and rolling clouds- that was unreal.

Mt. Batur

Mt. Batur

So I cried in Bali. What else did I do? I ate, duh. Did you know Balinese food is delicious? And their sweet iced tea tastes like Texas sorta? Yeah, me neither.

Quick Observations in Bali:

  1. We had a driver. I know what you’re thinking (maybe), but it was actually the best and reasonable way to get around (especially if you split the cost with 3 people). Our driver’s name was Cash Money.
  2. Rice paddies have a simplistic, yet complex beauty to them. It’s just rice, but a lot? Does that sound dumb? It’s something that you have to see for yourself.
  3. Ubud is apparently Bali’s arts and culture center– this explains all of the woodworking shops we passed. Like 10 shops on a lane, all so intricate and wholesome.
  4. You have to pay to get out* of Bali. So that was something we didn’t know.
  5. Warung means “little restaurant” or “diner.” There are tons on the streets of Bali, and I preferred going there to eat than an actual restaurant. PROTip: If there is only 1 thing on the menu or if you can’t read it, it’s local and it’s probably great. This tip never failed us.
  6. On this note, we steered pretty clear of central Ubud, as it tends to get touristy and saturated.
  7. Balinese people, or the people I encountered, were incredibly kind. Make a small effort to get to know them, it can go a long way.
  8. Bali is incredibly close to Australia. So, we saw a lot of Aussies on holiday. Lucky bastards.
  9. I didn’t tell you anything about food, shame on me. There’s a lot of free-range chicken, and it’s prepared deliciously.
  10. They make a mean babi guling, which is “suckling pig” in Balinese. I have never tried anything like it.

I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Bali, but it wasn’t any of this. I had heard incomplete thoughts about Bali, but only when I physically found myself in Bali was when those thoughts came together. Even as I write, I know I’m not doing Bali justice. While I’m not sure of how or when I’ll go back, I would like to. Back to the Villa, back to the green, back to the warung’s that took my heart and made me cry.

I sit here tapping on my phone screen as my friends wade in the pool in front of me. We have a few more hours until it’s time to hop onto another plane and travel back to BKK.

Yep, I’m in Thailand and I have some idea of how I got here. Mostly whimsy, and some of “I’ll-never-get-this-chance-again.” What I’ve learned is that you learn along the way, and how you spend your money is really up to you (more on that later when I have a proper computer). I wanted to write a bit to check in with you guys…so that you guys know that I’m alive and getting by, ha! Thailand has been beyond what I’ve expected, and I have so much to say about it. It’s a big* country. I will always remember Anthony Bourdain saying that travel changes you, and international travel changes you in a big way. Maybe I’m taking too much in, maybe I’m not taking in enough. Regardless, there is a missing for home and a hunger for more. What I realize is that it never ends. My thirst for travel grows more, my nostalgia for home and friends is never-ending, and my budget gets smaller and smaller. Luckily in Thailand, if you know the right places, you ask the right questions- you’ll be okay. I think. This is more than I planned on writing, but I’m a writer by nature.

Here’s the baseline of it all: Thailand, same same, but different.

Until next time when wi-fi is free,
Thu

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