A Walk on the Beach – Siam Summer

kids playing on the beach in-between rain storms

We moved on from Pattaya to Rayong. It is the city just on the other side of Koh Samet and this is the eventual goal of our travels, but it is considered a national park and will not open until July 1st. We thought we would explore this town as we wait for the island to open up, and there are enough little resorts right on the beach that will allow for us to have some fun before we hop on a ferry and travel across the span of water that hinders our path.

palm trees blowing in the wind at the edge of Bandera by the Sea resort

We thought we would have a nice day hanging out on the beach, and relaxing by the pool after our two hour trip between the cities, but this is when the truth of the rainy season came and reared its ugly head. I have heard that a lot of these outdoor activities are hindered because of the rain, and I thought that meant that the rain would come for an hour, dump down on us, and then move away to allow the sun to come back. That is the way it has been for us so far as we have lived in Thailand, but the rain was a little different yesterday.

the northern tip of the beach with people exploring tide pools

It blew in from the sea and dumped on us during our drive, making what is usually an hour and a half drive into an almost two and a half hour affair. The threatening clouds, and the rumble of thunder never really left us for the rest of the day either. It really prevented us from enjoying what the water had to offer, but we would not be ushered inside to hide from what could happen.

an abandoned beach because of the impending storm

Instead we explored the beach by walking up and down it. Though we never got in the water, it was still a fun way to enjoy the afternoon. There was nobody on the beach, and it felt like it was made just for us. The absence of the sun made the stroll the perfect time to enjoy the sea breeze and cooler weather. We were also look into the various resorts along the beach to see if we made the right choice in ours and see if there were any other restaurants we might want to go to while we were in town.

a field with cows grazing

There were the usual things you would expect to see on a beach, and I will write about them more this week as we explore them, but there were a couple of surprises as well. There was the field with cows in them that you can find all over Thailand. This is a pretty typical site. The fields are found in really random places as well. There is one of these fields off of Ramkhamheang, a busy road in Bangkok, that seems really out of place among the big named grocery stores and auto shops, but it is a leftover remain of a time that could soon be forgotten.

an abandoned boat a ways from the sandy beach

There are always these relics all over Thailand. Most of the time they are houses that have been abandoned and they are just waiting for somebody to come in and clear away the weeds and give it a fresh coat of paint. It is a different story when you see an abandoned boat high up the beach that is a long ways away from any place that has seen a drop of seawater. It makes you ponder the story of how it ended up in this place, and whether it is being used as a decoration for some resort, but then I did not see any building near it to indicate that this was the case.

It was a little disappointing to not enjoy all of the amenities that the resort had to offer because of the weather, but there was enough around to entertain us and it made even the simple thing like a walk along the beach a great experience. I just hope that the weather breaks a little so I can enjoy the other aspects of this city, or maybe it is for the best because it just waiting to break for when I make it over to the island.

 

Those Aren’t Mints – Siam Summer

There is a famous restaurant in Bangkok called Cabbages and Condoms. I have never been there but I have heard of it. It is a non-profit organization raising money for women’s health and hoping to increase the importance of this issue in southeast Asia. I have been told that the food is really good and it is worthy of the cause by going there. I was therefore surprised when the place I was staying at in Pattaya, the Birds and Bees, was associated with this organization and had another one of these restaurants in the establishment. I, of course, wanted to dine here, not only because the food was supposed to be good, but the money raised went to a good cause as well. There was the added bonus that I could continue my lazy start to this road trip by not having to leave the resort grounds by eating here.

The food is really good by the way. It boasts of a big menu with many items to choose from, most of which are Thai, but there are enough western selections there as well. I will admit that one of the meals I had here was a hamburger since it has been January since I have had one, but the other meals were from the Thai variety. And though I have had better Thai dishes, these were by far not bad at all and the presentation was always spectacular.

I enjoyed the pineapple fried rice for lunch and it came in a carved out pineapple husk. It is a common thing to see in Thailand, but it was the first time that I got to enjoy it this way, and I would say that it is the best way to eat pineapple fried rice. I also had the khao soi, another one of my favorite discoveries since I moved to Thailand. It was good and spicy and the curry boasted the peanut flavor that brings me back to it time and time again, but it still can’t beat the khao soi that is made in northern Thailand. I have no idea why the best khao soi comes from this region and the further south you get in Thailand the worse it gets, but that is the case for a lot of foods around the world. It was still a good representation of the dish, and I could not complain about the meals we had while dining there.

It did not come home that we were dining at a place called Cabbages and Condoms until we got the bill. It came with a little extra that I thought we strawberry mints, but true to the name of the restaurant, they weren’t mints. The fine people at this establishment always wish to leave you with a little extra for your evening to make sure it is a safe one, and it is a nice gesture.

It was then that I really started to recognize how much they played up to the theme of this restaurant. They had condoms under glass at the tables. They had a picture of the Mona Lisa holding a condom explaining that this was the reason for her smile. They had a condom tree. And my favorite, they had dummies with clothes made out of condoms. Finding this out at the end of the meal made the experience just that much better.

The bottom line is that Cabbages and Condoms is a great restaurant. They have good food in a friendly environment, and if you are at the one in Pattaya, you get to dine directly over the beach. The money they collect goes to a great cause especially in cities where the focus of women’s health really needs to happen such a Pattaya. So if you ever have a chance to enjoy a meal here, I highly recommend it because it will be an experience you will never forget.

I Guess I’ll Go Shopping – Siam Summer

Even the stuffed animals have been given masks

Quarantine is and was hard.

It is a simple fact that many of us around the world had to face over the last couple of months. There is a certain amount of loneliness to it even though you may have the company of certain individuals. It becomes hard to have new conversations when nothing happens and you can escape to your screens, but even then, that becomes a chore. The four walls start to close in around you, and you wonder if you will ever escape your home.

It is hard, but there is one thing to keep in mind, you are not alone in this situation. Everybody has been locked inside their homes for the last couple of months, and they are feeling the same things that you are. It is a wonderful feeling when things open up again, and you want to rush out and experience everything again. You vow to yourself that you will never take anything for granted again, but even when you make it out of your house, the things you have hoped to see have changed.

Social distancing at a Thai restaurant in Central World

There is still a distance between people. Some of the services you had loved so much are still not available. Stores and restaurants are half filled, and are not open for the same amount of time as they were in the past. You might even struggle to find a day when the place you want to go is opened at all, and some of your favorite places have shut down altogether. But you can’t stay in your house anymore, and you must experience something in your life, so you probably did what I did. You put on your mask and head out to the only places that are starting up again, the malls.

A simulation of a shopping street in Terminal 21

I know a lot of people travel around the world to experience the various shopping places that can be found in the larger cities. It is one of the things that attracts them to travel in the first place. And there are some great experiences that can be had in markets, but the big malls are usually places I like to avoid. I do not believe that you can find the little things that are unique to each corner of the world, and it is just another location where the bigger corporations are able to push their wares. But in time of Covid, it is the only place that is open, and as I have already explained, I needed to get out and experience life a bit.

We will come together again some day

It ended up going to two of the larger malls in downtown Bangkok, Terminal 21 and Central World, and it might have been because it was a Wednesday, and there is still a lot of concern about gathering in places, both of them were relatively empty. It was still fun to walk around the places and watch what people were out and about on this cloudy day in Bangkok. It was also a great time to stretch my legs and see a couple of the corners of this city that I would probably never have gone to. I did get to experience some fun artwork and got a really good meal at Din Tai Fung out of it.

The Tokyo floor in Terminal 21

But most importantly, it gave me hope that there is more than four walls to my life. It is great to know that there is a world out there, and though people might be cautious about jumping into opening up with two feet, it is nice to know that things are safe enough to slowly bring us back to being the social beings that we know we are. As we move closer to a solution to this world-wide problem, I hope we can take those moments of sanity and venture out to enjoy the things that we all enjoy. I know that the parks, and pubs, and tourist attractions are scheduled to open again soon, but for now, I will take what is offered for me.

Even if that is shopping.

A Bite to Eat – Siam Summer

One of my favorite things about going back to Colorado over the summer is hitting my favorite Mexican restaurants and enjoying the food that is really hard to find anywhere else in the world. Yes, the world has come to embrace Mexican food, but they tend to put their own twist on it, and if I really want Mexican food, I have to find a place that has true inspiration from Mexico. It doesn’t get the Colorado twist on the food, in other words, I cannot find green chili, but I good Mexican restaurant beings me back to summertime in the United States. Last night, I discovered such a Mexican restaurant in Bangkok, The Missing Burro. It is a little off the beaten path and is situated in a backyard environment, but it was worth the search. The food has that traditional Mexican flavor and though restaurants still cannot serve drinks, and a margarita would have added so much to this experience, it was a great night out. We were the only people in the restaurant for the three servers who were working, and the food came out quick in this nice relaxing environment.

This dinner took me back to my server days and what I used to have to go through in order to make ends meet, and it made me think what people in the restaurant industry had to be going through right now as they tried to keep their businesses open and still make money for the people who work well below the minimum wage in the United States. It made me realize that people needed to rethink what they should do before they go out to eat right now.

First, they need to remember that these servers are trying to make ends meet, and it is your tip that is how they get paid. They are going to have less tables to serve right now because of social distancing, and because of that, they are going to become more reliant on your tip. Be generous with it. Twenty percent should be the minimum right now. You should consider it part of your bill because it is the only way these people are going to make a living.

Second, the way these people make money is by flipping a table. They should be giving you a relaxing and enjoyable experience, but do not expect to sit at the table all night long while sipping on a refill of water. If you wish to catch up with people you have not seen for awhile, sitting at a restaurant is not how you do it. When you are done, you need to free up the table so other people can come in and enjoy their meal.

Third, this is not a time to bring politics into the situation. Servers will be required to wear masks. They are handling food and they are also in contact with various strangers every night. They probably consider them just as uncomfortable as you do, and they want to keep their job, so they will deal with the situation and make the best out of it. You do not need to berate them or the restaurant for them doing this. That will just turn the evening in a miserable experience for them and for you and for the other guests, so why would you want to be that guy? Just let it go. Until there is a solution to the problem, you should feel happy that they are trying to make sure that they are giving you a safe and hygienic experience.

Lastly, go out to eat. It is a great opportunity to enjoy life again. Try a new restaurant, maybe not a big chain because it is the small guy that is hurting the most right now. And you will find that things will eventually return to the world that you knew before all of this began.

We Got a Pool – Siam Summer

As far as the crow flies, we are only about 12 to 15 kilometers away from our home. Given Bangkok traffic at the wrong time, that is an hour away when taking a taxi. Despite these simple facts, it feels like a whole different world we are experiencing right now. The adventures we have taken so far have been simple and not too complicated, but we have taken that step to venture out of the Air B+B we are staying at to wander around a mall, stroll through the downtown area, and go out to eat. They are simple steps that we have taken to rejoin society, and we will take bigger steps as the week progresses, but it is a good start.

Mostly, we have enjoyed the fact that we are no longer confined by the same four walls, and we have been taking in the views from our tiny little patio. It is nice to experience the big city that we have been living in and having the ability to walk out of our front door and be right in the heart of it. I do not know if I could enjoy it constantly, and the place we are in is extremely tiny, but it is close to great restaurants and shops, and we are hop, skip, or jump away from parks which have now opened in the city. It will make for a fun and exciting week.

But the most exciting thing is that we have a rooftop pool that we get access to. Considering we are staying in the top level of this apartment building, we can get there is less than thirty second, and that includes putting on our swimsuits. It is situated in a nice alcove of the building that offers a shady retreat from the heat of Bangkok, and it is ten stories off of the ground so a nice breeze blows making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon.

I am making some assumptions, but I believe that it gets a lot of use by the people who live here and it is probably one of the biggest selling points of renting out an apartment in this building. But Covid-19 has changed that for the time being. Only one group is given access to the pool at any time right now. We had to sign up to reserve the pool for an hour, but considering that we are downtown during the work week and things are starting to open up again, it was not hard to find a time to go out and enjoy this feature.

It is not the most dramatic of travel stories I know, but in these times, it is the simple things that we should hold on to. People will eventually find the courage to take the precautions to venture out in the world again. If the world plays it safe until a solution can be found, life can once again be an adventure. It will just need to be stripped down a bit which will cause us to really take in those simple moments in life and truly enjoy them, so when you discover a pool to yourself on top of a building you are staying at, take advantage of it. The experience has been a simple one, but has been one of the most memorable ones this late into 2020.

Travel During Covid19 – Siam Summer

Even the stuffed animals are fitted with face masks

Usually, during this time of the year, I will have already hopped on a plane and have taken a long plane ride back to the United States to visit with family and friends. I would be unwinding from a busy school year, and trying to get over jet lag while making the adjustment to the new time zone. It would be a time to cover a lot of ground that I have already been over before, but I would be looking forward to the familiar.

This year has been a little different with the emergence of this new virus that has stopped the world in its tracks. It is an extremely dangerous time to travel, and I had no idea if I would be allowed back into Thailand for my job if I decided to leave it. There were options, but the most logical one was to stay put for the summer and hope that I would not go crazy doing something different while still stuck in the rut that I had experienced at the end of the school year.

So I am here in Bangkok, trying to find ways to enjoy the summer as best as I can.

Luckily for me, Thailand has done a really good job of getting the pandemic under control in its country. It has basically banned anybody from entering the country for unimportant reasons, closed down all of the shops and public places to make sure that the spread of the virus did not happen, promoted a culture of social distancing and wearing face masks, and creating great programs to track people so if there is an outbreak they can quickly get it under control before it gets out of hand. Because of this, many places are starting to open up again, and it is starting to return back to normal.

Of course there are a couple of places that are not allowed to open up yet such as bars, sporting events, and certain kinds of massage parlors, but there is really only one of those that I partook in anyways, so I can patiently wait for the bars to open up again, and it is probably a good thing that they have not done this yet.

There are a couple of hot spots in the nation as well that have not opened up its doors to people inside of the country yet. The pandemic is getting under control in these spots, but it has not been long enough for the government to feel safe to open them up, but most of them are a long ways away from Bangkok and not something that I could get to easily, mainly Phuket, Chiang Mai, and the national parks. There is also talk that the parks will open up at the end of the month and the other will follow soon.

In other words, Thailand is taking their time to make sure that they are doing things right so by the time the dry season starts and tourists want to make it back to the country, they should be able to do it safely. It just means that Thailand will be a quiet country this summer, making it the perfect time to explore it. The plan is to make sure that we are not spending more than a week at home at a time, and spend the rest of the time exploring the different parts of the country. It is still a little too early to go crazy on the coast or the northern mountain regions, but it is a great time to head down to the downtown area and explore the places we haven’t seen there yet. We won’t be able to visit the big tourists sites, or enjoy the rooftop bars, but we are okay with this. It is just nice to be outside of the house, and get to look at four different walls. It is not the summer I would have planned a couple of months ago, but I am still going to be able to make the most of it, and have a great Siam Summer.

Staying in the Hills – Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

The full moon rising over Sala’s parking lot

Very rarely, when we are traveling, do we ever splurge on a luxurious place to stay. We usually look for those small, comfortable places where we can find some down time after a long day of touring around the area where we are. We don’t go travelling for the hotel. We rather go out to experience the world, and see what different cultures have to offer to us. But we were not travelling just the two of us this time. We were off with Christine’s parents which caused us to make different decisions when it came to accommodations.

The view from my room when I opened the blinds

After a long day of riding around in a song tal (a covered pick up truck with two benches in the back to sit on) throughout Khao Yai National Park, we drove thirty minutes through the countryside, avoiding the big town, to find our really nice hotel, Sala. Very rarely do I talk about hotels during my adventures, but this one was exceptionally nice. It sat on top of hill that looked out over the valley that we had just travelled through, and was far away from the hustle and bustle that we had grown accustomed to by living in Bangkok.

The sunset over the pool on the back porch of Sala Hotel

We arrived just in time for the sunset, and as it sank below the horizon, it left a beautiful scene over the pool that sat on the edge of the deck. While we checking in, we were able to take a couple of pictures and make a reservation at the restaurant. We really didn’t need to make the reservation because there were only seven tables in the restaurant and there were only seven rooms in the whole place. People still came out from the city to dine here from time to time, but it was not a regular occurrence, and we were the only people at the restaurant for dinner. It was a great meal too with many options from both western and eastern cuisine.

The lived in look of the room at Sala Hotel

The room was even really comfortable. The bed was just soft enough to give the perfect night’s sleep. Sometimes in Asia the beds are a little too hard, but this was not the case at Sala. The room had two walls that were basically windows that when opened gave spectacular views of the valley down below, and because the hotel sat on top of a hill, there was a cool breeze that made me want to cozy into that warm bed.

It was a great way to end a great day, and Sala was the perfect place to stay when visiting Thailand’s oldest National Park. It is a little ways away and there are a couple of surprises along the way to get there, such as a golden wat on top of another hill and reproduction of an Italian village with its own leaning tower of Pisa, but it was worth the forty minute drive to make to this great accommodation.

Thank you, Sala.

The Big Mountain – Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

A swing at the gate to Khao Yai National Park

One of the bigger draws of Thailand lies outside of its bigger cities, and long white beaches. There is a whole ecological playground out there for people to enjoy, and the most popular spot is only a two to three hour drive away from Bangkok, and is the oldest National Park in the country, Khao Yai. The name basically translates to big mountain, and though it spreads itself over a very hilly terrain, it is more of a tropical forest out in the middle of the farmlands. It is a beautiful place with many varieties of animals all over the place, and you never know what you will find with every corner you take.

The view of the landscape, and as close as I got to the horn-billed birds

The most famous of the animals that live in the wild in this place are the elephants and the horn-billed birds. The elephants are in the wild and allowed to roam freely among the 300 square miles of the park, and during the dry season they are often seen taking mud baths, and heading to the many waterholes to get a drink of water. Unfortunately, I did not come across any of them during my time there, but they are doing well especially after the devastating news about them the previous year. There was an accident involving a baby elephant, and its parents as they went over a waterfall in the park, but measures have been taken to try to prevent this from happening again.

A stuffed horn-billed bird at the visitor’s center

I did get to witness the majesty of the horn-billed birds. There was a flock of them flying off towards the distance from the road we were on. They are huge birds whose wings span out to almost 180 centimeters, and their bright colors bounce off of the green landscape of the trees that populate the park.

People waiting to get their picture of the horn-billed family during their meal time

I was lucky enough to witness them from the road, but there is one spot where many photographers go to try to snap a shot of these birds. There is a nest in a hole in tree where one of the female birds was raising a couple younger birds until they were ready to fly out on their own. Basically the female bird will tear out her wing feathers to keep her young warm and feed. They eventually grow back, but during the time she has to wait until they return, she is completely reliant on the male horn-billed bird. The male goes out for food and returns to the nest to feed the young ones and the female bird. If anything happened to the male bird, it would be the end for the whole family as the female and the young ones cannot leave the nest to fend for themselves.

This is one of the problems that come with the park. Many people come and visit the park, and are looking for that perfect picture to bring back with them. Some of the more ambitious visitors will set up camp with their cameras waiting for the perfect time to get that picture. Sometimes they get a little too close to the nest which scares away the male horn-billed bird. Rangers visit this spot constantly to ensure the survival of these birds, and make sure the place remain amazing for other visitors who come back generations later.

Haew Suwat Waterfall, the one used in The Beach

Another popular spot in the park is the waterfall where they filmed the Leonardo DiCaprio movie based on Alex Garland book, The Beach. Even if the movie had not immortalized this location, it would still be the perfect place to hike down to. It is only a hundred meter down some strange stone steps, but there are many places to nestle among the stones down there to enjoy an afternoon next to the cool water.

The park is a must see for anybody coming out to Thailand. It really demonstrates how diverse this country actually is, but I would highly recommend hiring a tour guide to take you around. There are only a couple of roads through the park, and if you do not know what you are looking for, you will miss a lot of what this park has to offer.

Of course, you will still be able to see the occasional deer, and spot the elephants at some of the hotter spots. There is also many monkeys that come out of the forest looking for a free handout or something shiny to steal from unsuspecting travelers.

But our guide was able to show us the more hidden treasures like the vipers hanging from trees that we would have only found by accident.

And I don’t think I would have enjoyed the surprise we would have had when we came across one of these dangerous snakes.

She was also able to look into some of the pools in the river to show us the animals that lives under the rocks there.

And the craziest one that I would never have found in a million years. There is a spider on this tree that blends in perfectly because of its camouflage. If she was not there to point it out, I would have never seen it. I’m looking at the picture right now, and know where it is, and I still have a hard time seeing it.

The viewpoint half way up the mountain

It was a nice way to get out of the smog and heat of Bangkok for a couple of days. The clean air, the cool nights, the amazing views, and the fun of seeing all of the wildlife in the preserved spot in Thailand worth the trip.

I still wish I could have seen the elephants though.

Back to Summer

Back when I watched television, I remember a commercial of a person taking a trip from Flagstaff, Arizona to Phoenix, and how they shed their clothes along the way because of the changing weather. On my last day in Europe, I had a similar experience. I took a bunch of trains with many stops along the way from Murren, Switzerland on top of the Alps to Frankfurt, Germany where I took a plane back to Bangkok. I left at 8:30 in the morning wearing all of my warm clothes to hopping back into shorts and a t-shirt by the time I went to bed the next night. I thought I would point out the change as it happened by taking a picture at each one of the stops along the way.

Murren, Switzerland was the highest point, and the coldest. I had to bundle up and crunch across the snow.

We were still pretty high up when we arrived in Grutschlap, but did not have to leave the station as we waited for the cable car to take us down the mountain.

It was still a little cold in Lauterbrunnen because it was early in the morning, but the short wait did not make it feel that cold.

We had made it to Interlaken, Switzerland on a train and felt the constant descent from the valley we had stayed in for the last five days. The snow was still there, but reserved for the far away mountains.

We hopped on another train to Spiez in Switzerland, and we could start to see more blue sky and the need to pull off the coat.

Basel was our last town in Switzerland. We had quite the break there and it was getting really nice.

We reached the outer station of Frankfurt and had to put the coats back on and stick under the safety of shelter because of the rain that had come out of nowhere.

The rains had stopped in the twenty minutes it took us to get to Frankfurt’s main station, but it was still cool outside because the sun had dipped below the horizon.

Even though it was cold outside, I was in Frankfurt Airport, and knew my next stop would be Thailand, so I packed my coat away for the next couple of months. I would not need it where I was going.

It was fun being out in Europe for the Winter Break. Thanks for following along as I got to enjoy the cold weather for a little bit. Never take it for granted because you will miss it when it is gone.

The View from My Window

One of my favorite things to do while out on a long vacation that will take me to new and exciting place is to take a picture of the view I can see from my window of the hotel or hostel or Air B+B that I am staying at. It is surprising to see the differences of the places, and I think each place really show what certain places are really like. These are the views from the six place that I stay at.

Bad Windsheim, Germany

This was a really nice Air B+B we stayed at in Bad Windsheim, Germany. It sat above a nice pizzeria, and overlooked other people’s backyards. This feeling of being at home and comfortable in the very private surroundings that describes this quaint Germanic town.

Fussen, Germany

We only spent one night in this town that is most famous for the two big castles that sit on the mountains just outside of town. It was a small little hostel that was very crowded with only two bathrooms that I had to squeeze into if I wanted to use the shower. The building right across the street described the feeling of this place perfectly.

Salzburg, Austria

We stayed on the campus of one of the colleges in this town in a hotel chain. It was very comfortable and the staff was great. They had a nice community bar downstairs that many people visited throughout the day, and wherever you looked you saw other guests. The fact that I could look into other people’s rooms demonstrated this fact nicely. I tended to look over the building though at the mountains that surrounded the town.

Munich, Germany

I was back in the city with this hostel. We had a private room in the place, and it even had a sink in our room which made things a little more comfortable. There were a couple of shared bathrooms, and I could see during a busier time of the year it being a problem, but due to the fact that we were there at the beginning of the holiday after hangover, it wasn’t ever really a problem. I really enjoyed this place even the view could have been a little better, even though what should I have expected while staying in a city but a view of the city.

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

This was a great hostel and the views were amazing. It had a really nice kitchen and a great patio for each of the rooms. We did not use the patio because it was just a little too chilly, but that was the reason we came out here in the first place. The room was big and the people we shared the place with very friendly even though there were very few of them. It was exactly what it was like exploring this place that has easily become one of my favorite places in the world.

Murren, Switzerland

We like to splurge on one place on trips like this, and this was the place that we chose to do it at. The place was right across from the train station, but when you are in a town as small and quant as Murren, this is not something that should cause alarm. We were the only people staying at the place that night as well which made for a fun experience, and one again, the views were just spectacular. It also a a patio, and even though it was cold outside, we took advantage of it, and had a drink while enjoying the moon rise over the mountains.