Thailand has a lot to offer with its natural beauty, and I was lucky enough to have lived there during the Covid pandemic. It kept out the usual throng of tourists and made the prices for some of the more expensive hotels more affordable. I was spoiled a little bit because of this. Normally, I spend my time traveling in mid range hotels, Air b&b’s, or private rooms in hostels. The reason for this is not only financial, but because I like to spend more of my time away from the hotel, and see what the locations I am visiting have to offer. If I wanted to see the sunset over the ocean, I would have to find a good location, and stake out my spot. I was not aware that many of these luxury hotels were designed to give its visitors the premiere spots to watch the sunsets without having to leave their patios.
Because of this, I spent a lot of my time in Thailand chasing the sunsets. I never knew that they could be so dramatic and different depending on where I was and how the clouds hung in the sky over the horizon.
It always meant that I had to rush to the perfect spot around six o’clock every evening during my travels to get the best shot I could. I always found that the best pictures came when I had a body of water to bounce the colors off of.
But sometimes that would not be an option, and I would have to use what was available. Thailand offers enough landscapes though to make almost every sunset a perfect expression of color in the sky. Most people think of the ocean in Thailand, but there are enough mountainous locations that created beautiful sunsets that would rival the ones I used to see over the foothills on the western edge of Denver.
I do believe that I got better at capturing the sunset as my time in Thailand grew. At first I was just trying to capture the sky, but I soon realized that the sunset was actually an event that brought the people of Thailand out to capture their own spectacular pictures.
There were stories to be told in those sunsets, and the color in the sky just became a backdrop for those tales.
It took my pictures to another level, and help me to remember those moments I had in Thailand that helped shape me into the person I am today.
So as my time sets in Thailand, I will always have these pictures to look back at think on the beauty that is this country. It will easily be one of the things I will miss the most about Thailand, and I know I will see other sunsets in my life, but I do not think I will ever witness ones that are as spectacular as they were there again.
It is that time of the year again where we all look back at where we have been, and reflect on the lessons learned there. By far, 2020 will be remembered where there was a lot to be learned. I hope that we can take a lot from the experiences of this year and use it to grow not only as people but also as a world wide society.
When looking back at the posts that got the most views this year, I noticed that they had a sense of positivity to them, and I know that not all that I posted this year could say that they had that spin on them. It is nice to know that even though I might have found some dark places in this dark time, it did not bring people down and they still searched for that positivity in their lives.
I hope you enjoy the look back as much as I enjoy presenting it to you, and I hope, like me, that you look forward to 2021 with a new sense of revitalization as to what great prospects it may bring.
#10 To Choose a Side of the Valley – Wangen versus Murren
Most of my posts come from the first few days of 2020 when there was only a hint of disease taking over a small town in China. At this time, the hope of the year was still in front of me and I was wrapping up one of the best trips I have been on in a long time. It was great seeing snow again, and being forced to wear winter weather. This picture was taken on one of the last days on this trip as I sat on the balcony of our hotel room in Murren, Switzerland. My mind often wandered back to the beauty of this part of the world.
#9 In a Valley in the Swiss Alps – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Like I said, many of the most popular posts come from my trip to Europe and the beginning of the year, and this is no exception. Lauterbrunnen is a small town in a valley in the Swiss Alps and is the perfect home base for exploring these mountains. It is not nearly as cold in the valley as it is when you find your way to the towns closer to the top, and the views from down below are still as dramatic as they are up top.
After a tough semester of teaching on-line and being quarantined, Thailand had done well enough with the world-wide pandemic to allow travel to open up again, but only for those who were living in the country. It was never my plan to get to know Thailand as well as I did this summer, and it was interesting to drive down to Phuket and see how much this island had been affected by Covid-19. It has picked up since then, but it is still wrangling with the devastating effects it had on its economy. I got to experience it with mainly only its residents, and I still wonder what it would be like to see it when it is full with its regular amount of tourists.
I am actually really glad that this post had the reception that it had. Dachau was one of the more earnest moments of an unforgettable year. I did not know it at the time that I walked around the site of the Nazi’s first concentration camp, but a lot of the images and lessons learned there would haunt me all year long as I saw similar things play out on the political stages all around the world. It is one of the places that I believe everybody should see at least once in their lifetimes, right up there with Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
Koa Yao Yai was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. I was able to travel to this exclusive island in mid-July just as it was starting to open its doors again, and they were trying to entice tourists to come and stay. The prices were too good to pass up on this amazing island, and I am so happy that I was able to stay in this little paradise. I am pretty sure I will never be able to afford it again, but it is one of those things that make me look back at this year and realize that I was pretty lucky to be stuck in Thailand for this worldwide crisis.
This was one of the more touristy posts I gave on this trip. It is a must do if ever traveling to Salzburg, and it is really hard to forget about because no matter where you are in town, this imposing fortress is staring down at you from its hill. It is a fun way to spend a day in Salzburg and really lets you feel that medieval experience that you want to get when you travel to Europe.
When I was in this part of the world back in 2007, I was on a very limited budget and could not afford the brunch at the top of this Swiss peak. I almost did not believe it was worth the price earlier this year, but I am glad that I decided against being frugal and went up to this restaurant and had breakfast. It was fun going up and coming down this mountain, and I will never forget this experience. The post really picked up after the death of Sean Connery which is weird because this peak is most famous for the first Bond movie after he stopped playing the iconic character.
I have only had one of my other poems make the top ten list, but there was something that struck a nerve with a lot of people when I first posted this poem. It was early in the lockdown stage that everybody in the world was feeling, and they might have understood the sentiment I was trying to get at with this poem even though that was not what it was written about.
The image of a half full bottle of champagne sitting in front of this statue on the university campus in Salzburg is what inspired this poem. I did not post the poem with this picture until the end of the last school year, but it was around the holiday season this year that the poem started to gain in popularity. It took a year to get back to that feeling of the end of the semester, but I hope it helped everybody rejoice when the difficulty of both school semesters ended.
The title of this post started as a joke between a few people that I travelled to Rayong with earlier this summer. It was one of the first places that opened up after lockdown, and we went there for a couple of days before traveling to Koh Samet when that finally opened up. Rayong was not the best place to stay, but it was nice to be out of Bangkok. This post was about a comparison between Rayong and the amazing island of Koh Yao Yai, and people must have really loved it because the still visit it today. I do not know if it is because they want to know more about Koh Yao Yai, or if the title makes them laugh, but either way thank you for visiting it.
As always, these are posts that received a lot of traffic this year even though they were not posted this year. Some of them have taken a couple of years to gain in popularity, but the last one is the one I can guarantee somebody visits on a daily basis. The funny thing about “Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else” is that it was a throw away post that has now become one of the ones that gets the most traffic. It just goes to show that I do not know what will speak to the public, and what will not. It is always surprises me which posts do well, and which just disappear into obscurity.
You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20
Thank you for joining me in my travels this year. I am sorry that it was not as diverse as it has been in previous years, but it has been an interesting year for everybody. I hope that when things loosen up again next year that you find these posts and the other ones that I will continue to post inspiring and that you get out there and see the world. It is a great way to experience life and I would love to hear about some your adventures some day.
I have struggled with whether I should be writing this blog about the time I have spent in downtown Bangkok right now. There are many countries in the world that are still under lockdown and many place are only starting to open their doors back to the world to see what it is like out there. A bunch of uncertainty hangs in the air about what will happen next and whether it is safe to go out and enjoy life again. Bangkok is also going through this. They just happen to be a little ahead of other countries with getting back to a daily hustle and bustle, yet there is still a long way to go. There have been a lot of question bouncing around the back of my mind as I wonder who stayed in this place before us, whether the places I have been going to have been taking it seriously, and why do some people believe they are above common safety reason by walking around without a mask. It makes me wonder if we are safe by doing this.
Then I think about the other side of it. Why am I living overseas? I am here to experience other cultures, and travel and see the world. It is the main reason that we made this choice, and if I spend all of that time in a little house looking out at my mango tree and waiting for a soi dog to walk down my street, I am not really living the life that I wanted to. I know that there are many people out there thinking the same way as they spend another day in quarantine, and it would not matter where I was in the world, but I would have to go through the same kind of experience of staying indoors. Though some people might believe otherwise, this is not a problem that is isolated to one country; it is a worldwide problem. It is just some countries did a better job of handling the problem than others, and if I am living in one of those countries, should I take advantage of it?
Thailand is one of those countries that did a great job of containing this virus. It is not completely under control yet. There are still cases popping up daily, but they are so minor, the biggest spike being 17 people one day in the last couple of week with it usually being under five people daily, that it would seem silly to keep a population of people at bay. Like I have been talking about in my last posts, it is not completely opened up yet, but there are opportunities out there, and as long as I take reasonable precautions, I can enjoy my time out here, and still feel safe.
But this is not the worry that I have while writing this blog. My thought is about all of those people who are reading this still stuck at home while I am out there enjoying life again. I know that I have a lot of readers in America and they have been going in and out of quarantine. I understand your suffering because just like many other people in the world, I have gone through the same experience. It was not fun, and the walls of my place started to beat down upon me and I felt like I would never leave that place. But the time I spent in near isolation paid off as the causes of the disease died down and Thailand is now a safer place to live in. Yes, there are a couple of inconveniences. I have to wear a mask when I go out and I have to be aware of my proximity to other people. They ask that I check in as I go into stores so if there is an outbreak they can contact me about the way I have been exposed, but this is a minor problem compared to the bigger ones that could happen if I contract the disease. It is then that I become a danger to other people, and I do not know if I could have that responsibility on my conscience.
This whole summer has been great to see Thailand without all of the tourists. I have been lucky that way, despite the fact that things were not always open the way that they usually are. I know people are suffering right now, but it is nice to see that things are starting to turn around for them, and the economy is starting to pick up again. But know that just like you, it has not been an easy journey, and they is still a long way to go to fully recover from this. But they understand that everything is very fragile right now, and another outbreak could cause everybody to revert back to the devastating lifestyle we had to endure earlier this year. I hope that never happens, but I am also doing my part to prevent this for coming back as well.
I guess the reason that I wrote about my travels this summer was not to cause you frustration and anger because somebody was able to do something that you were not, but instead I wished to give you hope and inspiration that if you do the right thing, that travel could be in your life again as well. It may not look the way that you had thought it would, and many opportunities might not be available to you, but make the most out of the situation, and you will still find that life can be rewarding. Just know that it will happen again someday, but until then, do you part to help mitigate the problem and you will enjoy that reward even more when you finally achieve it.
I was able to talk to the head manager of Santhiya Resort today, and it was not because I wanted to complain about anything. There was nothing that I could complain about with this part of my trip. He was just at the dock to see us off when we left and while we were waiting for our boat to dock, he was telling us about the current status of the resort. Everyday, they were able to open up a new aspect of it, and they were seeing more and more guests as things moved forward. He expected that by the end of the month, they would be fully operational. It was just a matter of the guests returning.
This seemed to be moving in the right direction as well. On our first morning here, there were only three or four other couples having breakfast at the buffet, but by the end of our stay, it was hard to find a spot where we could have a meal. It even caused the coffee to be delayed when they made it, but we survived and got to enjoy a couple of cups before we had to pack up our bags and head for the dock.
The bay also started to pick up. On the day we came in, we were the only boat that we saw as we made the voyage from Phuket to the dock at Koh Yao Yai, but the way back, we had to weave through many fishing boats. I don’t know if this is because they wait until Sunday to fish this part of the bay, or if this is where they found the fish today, or if it had to do with the fact that more and more people were making their way to this part of Thailand, and the demand for fish was starting to grow again, and they needed to get the boats back out there to help with the demand.
Everything was pointing to an economy that was jump starting itself once again. It has been the bigger theme I have witnessed everywhere I have gone in Thailand this summer. They are not back to 100 percent yet, but they are taking it slow because they do not want to screw this up. I know that I have enjoyed my time out here this summer, but this is not the height of the tourist season for them, and considering a lot of the economy is based on that, they want to make sure that it is safe for everybody when the reach that time of year. I think of right now as a test run to see what they would need to do if Covid popped up again someplace and if they could contain it before it destroyed all of the places in their land that could be affected by it.
I have seen it happen at least once, and I do believe that they did a great job of containing it. But this is not only the concern of the government. It involves everybody doing their part. If one person slips with their responsibility, it could mean the end for everybody involved. So the temperature checks keep on happening, and people still wear their masks when they are in public.
And with that in mind, it is with a sad heart that I need to leave this part of my journey this summer. Koh Yao Yai is truly a magical place, and I do hope to come back to it some day. Sadly, I do not think it will be the same experience the next time around though. The crowds will surely be back, and it won’t feel like the place belongs to only me. I did enjoy all of my time here, but I enjoyed it more when there were less people. It is still an amazing place either way, and it will just be a different way to experience it when everything is opened and there are more options available.
This is not the end of my travels this summer though. It is just a change of pace. We left Koh Yao Yai behind, but find ourselves at a different part of Phuket island. I know it has not been that long, but it feels weird to be back in civilization. But I am looking forward to this leg on the trip. It looks like I will spend a little more time taking in the culture of the area, and less time lounging around a pool waiting for the next amazing sunset. I hope you join me as I deliver the goods on this part of Thailand as it slowly starts to open up as well.
Until next time, be safe and treat each other well.
I was supposed to be picking up my belongings, packing them into my suitcase, and getting on the speedboat to go across the bay and arrive at Phuket again today. But I am on summer vacation and there is no schedule that I need to attend to except enjoying myself. I have been enjoying myself so far on Koh Yao Yai and there are a lot of open hotel rooms out here for a good price. So why not stick around for one more day and enjoy all that this resort has to offer?
I did venture away from the top of the mountain and ventured to the restaurant that was opened by the beach and the dock which is where they dropped me off when I first arrived. The beach was completely empty due to the low amount of people staying at the resort at this time, and though it was inviting, it was a stark reminder as to what was going on in the world at this time. The building at the bottom of the hill that usually houses many people during their stay here was also abandoned. They were not getting enough business so it did not make sense to open up many different spots throughout the resort. Instead, they have put all of the people in the hotel buildings at the top of the hill nearest the infinity pool. But I do not know how much longer this is going to last until they are going to need to open up more of the resort. It kept getting busier every day that we have been here. Part of that might be because of it now being the weekend and people are able to get away right now, and it might be because people are feeling pretty safe right now and are willing to take that chance and travel.
Many of the places that can do so are taking advantage of this time of lower numbers at their location, and Santhiya Resorts is no exception to this trend. The buildings in the lower part of the resort that are not being used right now are seeing a lot of upgrades. There was a lot of evidence of construction that had been going on, and there were places where they were making unique carvings into the wood to help to add to the unique atmosphere of the place. It will just make it that more of a great getaway the moment the crowds finally do return.
It is still strange to know that all of the amenities that are usually available are not here at this time. We thought we would be getting different menu options at the other restaurant, but they used the same menu, and the food was still cooked at the restaurant up the hill and then carted to the restaurant down below. All we did by going down the hill was change the scenery, but it was still a fun evening though we did not get to experience everything out here to experience. I still should not complain. I have found myself in the middle of paradise for a quarter of the price. I did not have to contend with the crowds that would normally be out here, and it has been so great that I decided to stay an extra day.
It has been a great part of this summer vacation, and I will have fond memories of here, but I am also excited to see what the next step will bring as I force myself out of my pool chair and to more exciting adventures.
Koh in Thai means island, and there are a ton of places in the country that start off with that tag. In fact there are so many of them that it starts to get confusing as to which ones I am supposed to visit. So far, I have only been to three of them, and Koh Yao Yai is only the second one that I have been to since I moved out here a month ago. You would think that they would all be similar to each other. There would be a resort to go to, a bunch of restaurants to eat at, some kind of beach and a whole lot of relaxation. And even though all of these elements are present on each of the islands they all have different features that make them appealing for different reasons. Koh Samui has a town associated with it and there are a lot of people living on that island. Koh Samet is the quick little getaway close to Bangkok that gets really busy any time there is a long weekend in Thailand. They are both great for different reasons, but so far, I have been enjoying Koh Yao Yai the best.
It has a pool that I have been spending a lot of my time at and it has a beach even though it is not very big and I am planning on working my way down there today. But the thing that sets this place off from the other two that I have visited is the fact that it is super quiet. I am pretty that Covid has affected the amount of people coming to this island, but I do not think that it would have changed much if things were back to normal. First off, this island is located in the southern part of the country with the only way to get to it by taking a ferry from Phuket to here. It is not as easy to get to. Secondly, the island is not as built up as the other two that I have visited. There are two resorts that you can stay at if you decide to come here. I am staying at Santhiya, and even though it was a little more pricey than the regular ferry, I was able to take the resort’s private boat over to the location. It was worth the price because I could feel the stress melt away as soon as I got on the boat and the further away I got from the shore of Thailand.
The place is absolutely beautiful. I have found myself in a tropical forest without the sounds of the city anywhere to be found. The weather has been gorgeous here as well. I know that this cannot always be the case, but it has been fun sitting by the pool and watching the clouds build up and dump on the land on the other side of the water while completely missing the place where I am staying right now. Everything is made out of teak wood including the transportation. Not all of it is custom carved because the art work that makes up the main buildings is too precise for this to be the case, but there is enough original artwork through the place that I am always surprised by what I am seeing. And when we first arrived at the dock and were being escorted to the car that would take us to our room, I saw that the pillars that supported the dock were being worked on at that moment by a couple of carvers to make a unique design for anybody that happened to come by.
I have enjoyed all of the islands I have visited in Thailand so far, but I am especially enjoying the isolation and the relaxed atmosphere of Koh Yao Yai the best. I have also been lucky enough to have visited it at the right time. The price right now was one that could not be beat, and I do not know if I could have been able to afford it if I had come during the return of the tourist. I do feel lucky to have landed in the right place in the world for this pandemic and I am glad that I get to enjoy it safely while the opportunity is here.
One of my friends at the school I am working at probably would not like me mentioning the joke that we use now when talking about the places we visit. We make reference to one of the places we visited earlier in the summer when we talk about the place we are staying. We may talk about the beautiful rooms, the expansive pool, the gorgeous beaches, and the way it just calms the nerves yet never be satisfied because, “It is no Rayong.” Rayong is the city that sits across the from Koh Samet, and many people only visit it long enough to catch a ferry over to the island. It is a nice place, but it is the great vacation place that Koh Samet is. We spent a couple of days there waiting for the island to open up, and though we had fun, it was not a place I would go back to for vacation.
The place I have ventured to right now is no Rayong, but it will do. It is a resort tucked on the island of Koh Yao Yai all by itself. It is a paradise. Everything is made of teak wood including the song tols and there is a pool that is a hundred meter walk from the door to my room that overlooks the bay and gave me a beautiful sunset to watch last night. It is a five star hotel and we are getting it for a steal right now because they are trying to attract any person to come out here and enjoy their time. They have been hit just as hard by Covid-19 as many other places in the world, and they are starting to get things running again, but are doing everything in their power to be extremely careful so they do not have to backpedal later.
This is the reason that I am bringing up Rayong, and the lesson that can be learned from what happened their recently. It turns out that an ambassador’s daughter broke her quarantine early to go out and party with her friends at one of the bars in town. She later found out the she was infected with Covid-19, and now because of her inability to follow the rules, she has caused problems for many people. First, there is the group of people she exposed to the virus. Hopefully, they do not have any health concerns because of this, but no matter what, they will not be able to go back to normal life until they can prove that they are not going to affect other people and cause the disease to spread again.
Secondly, there is the town of Rayong itself that has been affected. The school have been told to close down until further notice. The businesses are going to also have to shut down, and even if they were willing to break that request, there are people who are cancelling their plans to the area so they won’t have the customers they would have had if the outbreak had not happened there. The island of Koh Samet is a great example of going through this problem. As soon as the news came out, many people cancelled their reservations, causing them to slip back into the slump that they were trying to get out of in this first place.
There are many consequences to someone be selfish and not doing what is asked of them. I know that this person was given a special privilege due to their prestige considering that most people who come into Thailand have to quarantine in certain hotels that are closely watched, but the rules are in place for a reason. This disease does not care about who you are or your social status or your political leanings. It does not care about international borders or what timely thing that you might be missing out on. It functions under the laws of nature, and all we can do is the right thing to make sure that we are mitigating any potential of this spreading further and causing more disruption to our daily lives.
Life does not have to be miserable and we do not all have to live in our houses if we play it smart. I am lucky to be in a place right now that is letting me have a vacation during my summer months, and I appreciate that. But I know that there are some things that I need to do to make sure that my loved ones, those who I come across and I are all safe. It is as simple as keeping a certain distance from people, wearing a mask while out in public, and if I do get sick, not to go out and try to grab a little bit of fun because I am afraid of missing out on something. If we all do our part, we can all enjoy life until we can discover that vaccine that will keep everybody safe.
Thanks for listening, and I hope you stay safe and think of others around you as we fight this pandemic together the best way we know how.
I have often talked about how spoiled I was growing up in Colorado and how it is such a place of infinite beauty. My heart will always find a home there and part of that reason is because of the sunsets over the Rockies. It does not happen every night, but on those special nights, there is a magic that happens over those mountains as the color in the sky changes to different kinds of oranges, reds and purples. There is a reason that so many people have a window that frames these mountains, and it is for those moments of intense beauty.
As I have traveled around the world, I have seen many other sunsets that rival the ones I have witnessed in Colorado. They usually fall over the sea, and it is fun watching the sun slowly sink into the horizon over this vast body of water. Though tears may form in my eyes, I just can’t pull away, and I have to watch every moment.
Though it is still beautiful with the light reflecting off of the deep blue of the water, it is still does not have the explosion of color that I get to see on those great sunsets in Colorado. It is still a moment that I look forward to and it is one I have been seeking out all summer because I knew that there must be spectacular ones to see in Thailand.
I think I have found the place where the best sunsets exists and as a man from Colorado, I am sorry to say that it is not along the Front Range. It is on the island of Koh Yao Yai on the southern end of Thailand. It is here that you get to experience the beauty of both moments in a sunset. You get to watch the sun dip below the horizon over the ocean while still experiencing the reflection that the fading daylight has over the cloud hanging over the distant mountains.
I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it in my lifetime. It was stunning and though it only lasted for less than an hour, it is easily my favorite moment so far this summer. I am happy that I did not miss it.