Top Posts from 2019

Well, it is the end of another year, and this one has seen some really exciting changes in my life. I moved from South Korea to Thailand. I took two voyages back to the United States, one in the beginning of the year, and one during the summer break to get everything in order for the move. I got to visit Japan during the Sakura festivals and see what the hype was all about, and I got to fulfill a long dream of mine of spending Christmas in Germany. It has been an exciting year full of highs and lows, and I want to thank all of you for being along for the ride. I thought I would take the time to go through the posts that you enjoyed the most this year and list them in order according to their popularity.

#10 – Cherry Blossoms in Our Winter

This is the first poem to make this list, and it is actually one of my favorite poems that I have written. It really captured the moment that I witnessed during my trip to Tokyo, and I think showed why the Sakura Festival is so important to all of the people who live there,

https://johncollings.com/2019/04/21/cherry-blossoms-in-our-winter/

#9 – Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Even though this experience was more of a day trip from Hau Hin, it was still close enough to the place where I set up my base to include it in this area of Thailand. I had a lot of fun on this first trip out of Bangkok, getting to explore the country a little more, and it just showed me what little treasures I could find as long as I took the time to find it.

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

#8 – The Journey to Ring in the New Year – The Holidays Day 13

This was actually the first post I had during the 2019 year, and it told of the story of the struggle I had making it to my brother’s house for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Snow can be a beautiful thing, but not if you have to travel through it dumping down out of the sky on a holiday night known for people drinking too much and taking unnecessary risks.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/01/the-journey-to-ring-in-the-new-year-the-holidays-day-13/

#7 – How is This Not a Thing – Itaewon Day 2

I had many unique experiences during my time living in South Korea, but one of the most unique experiences was being sat down in an enclosure with a bunch of meerkats in a cafe in the middle of downtown Seoul. The Meerkat Friends has been in operation for over a decade and it is easy to see why so many people enjoyed a post about cuddling with a bunch of the furry creature.

https://johncollings.com/2019/02/03/how-is-this-not-a-thing-itaewon-day-2/

#6 – Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Only one thing can beat cute, furry creatures, and that is blowing things up. It is kind of a tradition in the United States anymore, and it is always a fun to be able to spend it with my family. I was especially impressed with the creativity that went behind some of the fireworks, and I am also impressed with how big, and loud they have gotten over the years.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/05/massive-explosions-the-move-day-15/

#5 – Ice Cream Asian Style – Back to Japan Day 1

Who knew a pair of chopsticks and a small cup of Hagen Das would have been so intriguing? It was another one of my posts inspired by my trip to Japan and this was even before we were able to experience the sakura. Funny thing about this post was we found a small little spoon in our bag from the store after we finished eating our ice cream.

https://johncollings.com/2019/03/23/ice-cream-asian-style-back-to-japan-day-1/

#4 – You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

I am always surprised by what posts connect with people and which ones do not. This post was supposed to be a throw away about a day at I had to spend on campus of my old college getting some paperwork taken care of, but for some reason, people kept coming back to it over the year. I guess they feel the same way about that lyric to that Billy Joel song that I do.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

#3 – The Legacy – The Move Day 1

This was my final farewell to a country that I had lived in for four years. It was a bittersweet departure. During my years at the school, there was a lot of talk about “Leaving a Legacy” behind, and this was my response to that idea while saying goodbye to all of the people that I had met and grew with during my time there.

https://johncollings.com/2019/06/20/the-legacy-the-move-day-1/

#2 Downtown Bangkok

Making the move to Bangkok has given me an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and the city of Bangkok has so much to offer that it might take a couple of years to get to it all. This was my first attempt at making a dent into seeing what this city is all about, and I am sure there will be many more to follow.

https://johncollings.com/2019/08/12/downtown-bangkok/

#1 – The Arrival- The Move Final Day

There is nothing like moving into a new place. It is full of excitement and potential, but the only way I could share this moment with my family and friends was to write this post about it. The amount of people checking into it was almost like having a house warming party except I had not quite unpacked yet. It was still fun to show everybody the interesting artwork that was found in my bathroom. He has got a name now too, Smoke.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/30/the-arrival-the-move-final-day/

Honorable Mention – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

When I published my first book, I was told that you would never know what would take off, and what would die in obscurity. This post has found a life of its own. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not have a person look at this post about a funny bumper sticker I saw while in Bend, Oregon a couple of years ago. It has turned into the most widely read piece I have ever written, and I am interested to see if it continues to make a presence in the coming year.

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for visiting me site this past year, and I look forward to seeing more of you next year.

 

A Weekend on the Coast – Hua Hin, Thailand

An aerial view of Huua Hin looking over the Bintabath section of the town

It had been awhile since I felt like I had gone on a real vacation. I had taken a night or two to spend some time in downtown Bangkok and explore that area, and before that I had visited my family back in the United States, but it had been a long time since I had gone to a new destination and enjoyed the comforts of that place. I didn’t think much about this as I left Bangkok for the first time, and made the three-hour trek down the coast to the town of Hua Hin, but what I found when I finally arrived there was a great city with lots to offer that I was able to enjoy a wonderful experience at this great destination.

The wide open space available on the beaches during the off season months

The most obvious attraction in this city is of course the beach. It stretches all the way down the main strip with many hotels perched above its sandy shores. I went down here during the perfect time. Even though it was a national holiday last weekend, there were still not a lot of people enjoying the beach. I could easily find a spot where I would be comfortable enjoying the sun and warm water, and still feel like I had the beach to myself. I do not know if this would be the case during the height of tourism season in January, February and March, but in October, it was perfect.

The view of the beach from one of the restaurants found there

If got too sunny, I could go to one of the various restaurants along the beach and park myself underneath their umbrellas, and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat. The food wasn’t that great, but the shady spot where I could watch the tide come in and sip on a beer was the perfect way to enjoy the afternoon. My favorite part of this was watching them taking the umbrellas down and replace them behind me as the water threatened to get them wet. I started the time in this shady retreat in the back row, but by the time I left I found myself almost able to put my toes in the water, and I didn’t have to do a thing to get closer to the water than just sit there.

A food stall in the Cicada Market

Hua Hin also has two night markets that it can boast about. The first one is the older market closer to town that has most of the traditional things that you can find at a market in Thailand, clothes, various household items, and street food. The nice thing about this market is the restaurants that line the street behind the vendors. They have set up places along the street where you can sit down and watch the various people shop while enjoying some of the street food that you have found.

The dining area in the Cicada Market

I liked the Cicada Market on the southern end of town a lot more. It was a little more upscale, and most of the people working the booths were the artists that produced the items that they are selling. If you are looking for that unique gift or memento from this part of the world, this is the perfect place to find it. They also have to amphitheaters where bands or acts will play to entertain you in between the moments of shopping. In the center, you can also find various stalls selling their versions of Thai street food. This place had some of the best street food that I have fond in Thailand, and it was still pretty inexpensive. I had a hard time stopping myself from eating too much because there was too much good smelling food that was being offered.

The Black and White platter from Prime Steakhouse

This isn’t the only place to find good food in the city. There is the bar section of town Bintabath. This is a fun place to go barhopping because they all seem to be located in this area. Besides finding a good drink or a nice pool table, you can also get an amazing sit down meal. My favorite place was the Prime Steakhouse. It was a little pricey, but the meal could easily have been in my top five for steaks I have eaten on all of my travels in the world. It also has a beautiful, relaxing and comforting atmosphere that makes the time you spend here just as good as the food.

A marching street band I came across on my last day in town

I only got to spend one weekend in Hua Hin, and every corner I turned there was a new site to see, or a new experience to be had. I know that I had barely scraped the surface of what this little corner of Thailand had to offer, but after spending a couple nights here, I know that I have found a gem that I want to return back to soon.

A view of the sunset from the bar on top of the Hilton Hotel along the beach

Most of my attention was directed towards the shore while I was out there, and it was only the sunset on my last night there that allowed me to see that there was another side to this place that I had not even seen, the mountains and the fun hikes that hid themselves over there. I know I will be back someday because it is so close and the perfect little retreat for those long weekends I get, but until then, I will have to explore the rest of Thailand and see what it has to offer me.

 

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

I know that there is only one Indiana Jones movie that takes him into Asia, and for most people, it is not the best installment in the series, but thanks to recent efforts, it is not longer considered the worst by some people. Despite this fact, I had a great morning adventure that made me feel like I was Indiana Jones, exploring the wilderness of some forgotten forest in search of a secret temple. It made me feel the magic that I have heard about the country of Thailand for the first time since I have moved here, and it is truly one of the hidden gems that the country has to offer.

I have taken a weekend trip down to Hua Hin, a beach resort town on the eastern coast about three hours south of Bangkok. And even though the town has a lot to offer, and I have had a lot of fun exploring its nightlife, it is this morning side trip that will probably stick in my mind longer than any other event, and be the thing I remember about the place. I got up early and grab a taxi to go see the wonder of Phraya Nakhon Cave, and I do not regret the decision.

Basically, the forty-five minute cab ride from town costed me 700 baht, and took me down to Sam Roi Yot National Park which is the entrance to a path that would take me to this hidden cave. For another 200 baht, I was able to buy entrance into the national park, and I had a choice to make. I could take a half an hour hike over a rocky out cropping to get to the trailhead, or rent a boat that would take me there in ten minutes.

I went with the later choice, and I am glad that I did. There is a big collection of water taxis that sit on the edge of the beach, and the take people back and forth to the beach on the other side of the mountain.

They were constantly going back and forth, and I didn’t have to wait for a second to catch a boat either way. It always fun to travel by boat as well. Smelling the fresh salt water as the boat skims over the mild wake helps to build up anticipation for the experience that is going to follow.

When the boat landed on the other beach, it took a little while of walking through the sand before I reached the trailhead. This is where the ease of the boat ride really paid off. I had gotten to the trail head at about 9:30 in the morning, and even though it is starting to cool off a bit in Thailand, it is still really hot and humid as I traversed up the rocky stone path that took me to the entrance of the cave.

It was also nice that I went early. There were a couple of people that were on the path as I went up, but they were far enough between that it made it feel like I was out there by myself. On my way back, there were a lot more people coming up, so I was glad that I had started early so I would not have to deal with these crowds as I made it to the treasure at the end.

As I went through the trek, I was amazed by the natural surroundings. I was definitely in the tropics as the foliage crowded in around me, and the humidity made me sweat. Monkeys jumped from above in the trees, and every once in a while they got close enough where I could see them. Rock formations poked out from the overhanging recesses that I found along the trek, and I really thought that I was getting some place where very few people had ever seen. From time to time, I would come across something that would remind me that this was a sacred place for the people of Thailand as I would see a statue or a sign indicating that I was still going in the right direction.

As I made it further into my decent, the landscape changed even more. I found myself in a natural cave carved out by the wind, rain and spraying ocean water. It started to cool off a bit more as I found myself surrounded by the cliff faces, and I could marvel more at the natural way that things were carved above, around and below.

Finally, I turned a corner, and for the first time I could see the treasure that I had come down here to see in the first place. It was like Indiana Jones standing at the edge of a long hallway in which the end of it stood the golden statue bathed in a shimmering light. What I had found was a lot bigger, and only pictures of it would be the things that I would be able to bring back with me. And I wouldn’t realize how stunning those pictures would be until I made that final turn.

There it was, the temple that was framed in the morning light from the opening of this cave out in the middle of the hills in Thailand. It was the perfect time of the day to come out here to see this as well because the lighting was perfect. I could see how an hour later, it would not be as dramatic, but it really stood out during the time that I was there. The strange thing was not that many people were out there to look at as well. I could move around and pick the perfect shots and not have to worry about some random tourist getting in the way of me snapping that picture. I couldn’t understand why this was true except for maybe the fact that it took about an hour and a half to get to from Hua Hin, and it would take people away from the comfort of the beach and convenient bar street. And even though it does require some physical exertion and does take away the whole morning, it was completely the trek that I made. It is a must go see if you ever find yourself in Hua Hin, but you do have to plan ahead for it because it is best experienced in the morning. I am glad that I made the voyage.