I know I have said in the past that I am more of a mountain man rather than an ocean man, but that does not mean that I don’t appreciate a good beach, and Thailand has a lot of them. It does have mountainous terrain to the north and I do enjoy those places, but it is mainly the beaches that I will remember from my stay of living in Thailand.
I was pretty lucky also. Most of the time, the beaches in Thailand are crowded with people and it can be hard to stake out a place on the sandy shore. But than Covid happened, and the usual stream of tourists were no longer allowed to come into the country, giving the beaches back to the locals who should have a chance to enjoy them as well.
This meant that there were many times we had the beach to ourselves. It is an odd thing to see, a long stretch of sand next to the warm, tropical waters just begging for toes to be dipped in. Most of the time, this was a welcoming sight, but there was a little bit of a down side to this as well. The Thai people usually do a good job making sure these beaches are pristine and free of trash, but with the loss of the tourist dollar, they were not able to keep all of the beaches clean. That meant it was a hit or miss affair where sometimes the beach would be clean, and there were other times where I had to watch where I was walking because I didn’t always know what I would be stepping on.
But on those beaches that were clean and the people were still not flocking to them, there was another sight that wasn’t as common in the past, wildlife had returned. Of course, I still saw the crab scuttle along the beach, or the birds flying just off the shore, looking for a quick bite, but I also saw monkeys and monitor lizards just basking in the summer sun. It meant that any time I went to a beach, a new adventure was just around the corner.
The beaches were only just a place to walk and lie in the sand, but there were many opportunities for water sports as well. I went snorkeling a few times, and paddle-boarding as well, but my favorite activity had to be kayaking. The rentals of these were still available in most places, and sometimes they were even a free service with the hotel we were staying at. It was a great way to explore the coastline and see other beaches that sometimes were not easy to get to.
Even if I did not have access to any of these floatation devices, I could still run out and play in the water. During the summer months on the southern beaches, the surf was pretty big on some of the beaches. What surfers that were still in the country made their ways down to these beaches to catch these waves, but there was still plenty of space for people like me who love to jump into the oncoming waves and keep my balance. I know it is not the safest activity in the world with the danger of the undertow, but it is probably one of my favorite things to do on a beach.
And with all of that available, the beaches in Thailand are the perfect place to lay back with a good book and relax. I know that there are many places out there in the world that offer the same kind of relaxation but I really fell in love with this activity in Thailand. The country does really have some beautiful landscapes and I know that they will get overcrowded again as things start opening up all around the world, but I will always look back fondly on the ways that I was able to enjoy the beaches while I was living in Thailand, and it will definitely be one of the things that I will miss from there.
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.
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.
Thailand has a lot of wildlife. It is everywhere I go, and now that the rainy season has started, it has come out of the forest and is not as afraid to show that it is out there. I have seen a lot of wildlife on this little road trip and I am expecting to see more as I go along.
The beaches have been filled with crabs scurrying all over the sand and through the clear water on the beaches of Koh Samet, a snorkeler can see schools of fish and even large clams hiding among the rocks.
I have seen rugby ball sized turtles just strolling down the sidewalks in my neighborhood, and after any rain a cacophony of frogs sings their serenade to anybody that gets too close to them. I have seen a couple of snakes, and a few monitor lizards with the longest one being about six feet from the tip of it tail to its tooth, but they are hard to get picture of because I really do not want to get too close to them.
But it took until this little road trip that I learned more about these little critters, geckos. These guys are pretty much all over the place. We’ve always had two or three of them living in our house that I have know about, and there have probably been a couple others that are a little bit better at hiding in the corners not frequented as much. They do a lot more than just try to sell me car insurance. I have been told that they eat a lot of the bugs that you do not wish to have in your house, and for this reason, we usually end up leaving them alone.
It was a nice surprise when I was greeted by a couple bigger ones in our last two hotel rooms. I waved at them and then let them crawl behind the curtains. What I did not know is that when they get a little bigger, they like to make noise to let people know about their presence. I know many of you are trying to think about what noise a gecko makes right now, and I would have been in the same category a couple of days ago. It was when I was woken up by one of them the first night of this trip that I realized what they sounded like. At first, I did not think it was a gecko that was making the noise. It sounded like a bird had somehow gotten trapped in our room, but it wasn’t persistent like a bird would be. They only chirped for a couple of seconds and then they were quiet for the next hour or so. But it was a little annoying to be woken up every hour as they moved from one place in the room to another spot.
I have since learned how to sleep with the chirp, but it alarmed me the first evening. In fact, I have come to enjoy the noise because I know that they are keeping me safe from all of those mosquitoes looking to suck my blood. It just adds to the cycle of life that happen is Thailand during the rainy season.
I now know why they call it the rainy season. There had been the occasional storm that came through our neighborhood that would cool things off and water the trees, but it would only last a couple of hours at most, and we could go back to our lives afterwards. Ever since I have made it to the coast, the rain has come a little more consistently and has stuck around a little bit longer. One nice things about it is I am no longer complaining about the heat, but I am also stuck inside waiting for things to change so I can go back to enjoying life. I had spent too much of the last couple of months doing that, and I did not want to continue this routine into my vacation.
But that is essentially what life is about. We continue with our routine while sitting at the edge of what could happen, waiting for that moment when things calm down and we can grab a little something from our existence.It might be a world wide pandemic that causes us to hide in our houses, but if we are honest with ourselves, there are a lot of those storms that keep us in our homes. It might be that work has kept us too busy, or the maintenance of our possessions prevents us from venturing out into the world. Sometimes it is something so simple as being so accustomed to the little world that we have made for ourselves that we do not want to see what else there is out there for us. But eventually we tire of those things are have to go out for a change or scenery and create a new memory.
Luckily for us, the rain did stop in the afternoon, and we were able to get some pool time before joining our friends for dinner. Now Rayong is not known for its big restaurants and fancy beaches. In fact, it has been barely surviving as a resort town only booming when it gets the overflow from Koh Samet. Add on to the fact that the island has been closed since March and Covid has kept people in their homes, it has not been kind to the establishments out here. A walk down the beach will highlight the many resorts and restaurants that have gone under during the crisis and the rainy season is allowing the jungle to take back what originally was its possession.
There are a few places that were able to weather the storm. One of these was Ken’s. This open aired seaside bar is owned by no other than Ken. He is a friendly guy that hangs out by the shore and points out his establishment to people who happen to walk by. I know that this is a technique that is every large city in the world as restaurants try to compete with each other, but with Ken it feels natural and he makes you want to come back and enjoy a meal there.
And this is what we did. The food was good, but nothing to write home about. It was the atmosphere that kept us there and will have us coming back for more. Ken and his staff coming set up a couple of tables on the beach right next to the surf so we could let its gentle cadence entertain us during our meal. Because it was that sweet spot in between the closing of Thailand, and the opening of it back up to tourists, we were able to have the beach virtually to ourselves. It was the perfect way to enjoy an evening meal.
And it was right when we were packing up to go home for the evening that the rains started to return. It was only a drizzle until we found the shelter of our patio and that was when the rains really started to come down. We had found that perfect time to enjoy the moment, and took full advantage of it while we could.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.