It was supposed to be the last hurrah during the holiday season, and we were supposed to be wowed by what we were going to experience. But then the Thai government threatened to close down the boundaries between the provinces, and because we were worried about being stuck in a part of the country and not being able to get to work, we cut our vacation short and cut out the couple of nights at Thailand’s national park, Khao Sok. We were lucky that they told us that we would be able to reschedule our trip for a later date when the Covid crisis had calmed down a bit. Not every place we had booked had been so generous, and I am glad that this place in Thailand made this concession.
It wasn’t necessarily the best time to leave work, but my time in Thailand is starting to tick down and this was one of the places that I wished to visit before we left. So considering I have not really taken much time off from work while living out here, I took the day off to enjoy what I now consider a mini Spring Break.
Khao Sok is a remote place in southern Thailand where the connection to the grid is a little spotty. It is part of the reason that many people book a place down here. There are a few resorts dotting this huge lake surrounded by jagged peaks. The only way you can get to one of these place is by boat, and once you arrive, there is nothing else around. They supply all of the meals and subject you to an itinerary of hikes, and boat rides that will introduce you to many of the amazing sites around as well as the wildlife that inhabits this location. I have already seen one of Thailand’s famous hornbill birds soaring over our resort, and we have not even gone on one of the tours yet.
When not hiking or visiting the sites, there are many other things to pass the time at the place we are staying. They have a whole fleet of kayaks that we can borrow at any time to do a little exploring on our own, and the water is warm and clear. It is the perfect place to float around in and see the mountains that tower over us. I have not done a lot beyond travel to the place and unwind from the last couple of months of work, but I am looking forward to the adventure that this place will provide. I am happy that I will be able to enjoy the holiday that almost didn’t happen, and I am excited to squeeze in this corner of the country before I have to go.
It is our goal to be known for something That looks like the field of bureaucracy. You thought the other countries were tiring, But come to our corner of the city, And you will find that you will never leave, Not because you now desire to stay. Our staff has been trained in how to deceive You that you’ll accomplish your task today. All the required forms have been hidden, And when you ask for more information, The nature that employees are bidden Is to point you in the wrong direction. It’s become the source of our greatest pride To take the farang on a day long ride.
They have told me not to pay attention To the importance that they give a name, For it does not matter the intention As the identity will be the same. Ownership comes with specification To the ones who had first called it as so, No longer belonging to that nation, Letting the imperialism grow. When you go off to the celebration, Discuss why you go to dance and sing. Does it matter that the iteration Of a country is part of the ringing? So I would like to raise my glass in cheer To this great holiday, Lunar New Year.
I am probably making a bigger deal about this than I should, but there is something about Chinese New Year that bugs me. It is a day that is celebrated all over the world, and it is based upon the waxing and waning of the moon. It is so popular that people in Thailand even celebrate the Chinese New Year, and I am sure that there are other countries in Southeast Asia that celebrate it as well. But South Korea does not celebrate the Chinese New Year. They have their own celebration on the same day that focuses also on the waxing and waning of the moon, but they call it Lunar New Year instead.
All of these countries get excited about this day, and it is often considered one of the biggest holidays of the year. They decorate the malls, and have many places where you can get your picture taken to prove that you were alive when it became the Year of the Bull. So my problem comes from the fact that it is called Chinese New Year in countries that are not even China. I get the fact that some holidays are specific to certain countries, and the celebration of them should hold the title of the country that they come from. But this is a holiday that is based upon legends that are shared by many of the countries of this region and is based upon a single day in February that changes with the moon. I agree with Korea that the title of the day should be Lunar New Year and not Chinese New Year.
I am pretty sure that it is a big party in China every year on this holiday. Though I have not experienced the same level of excitement associated with it in Thailand, I think part of my experience might be because the current state of the world which has probably toned down the celebrations in China as well. The point being is that there is no one holiday that is celebrated around the world that has the same kind of association with it. We don’t call it America’s Christmas even though there might be a few people who think that this is a more appropriate name. It isn’t the Celtic Halloween even though this is the place where it originated. We don’t even call it the Vatican’s Easter even though the history of this event has been distorted throughout the years and does not look like what it did when they first celebrated it.
I have no qualms with China continuing to call the day Chinese New Year either. I am just surprised that countries that wish to retain the autonomy and their own culture are so willing to give into the pressure of calling it the same thing even though that has nothing to do with the way they celebrate it. When it comes down to it, I believe it is a great holiday to celebrate, and I enjoy seeing people come together to ring in the New Year. I just hope in the future they look towards the day and recognize it as a part of their own culture and not some import from a different part of the world.
Sorry about the rant, but I hope you had a wonderful Lunar New Year, and that you find luck and happiness in the Year of the Bull.
One of my favorite things about getting out of the house and traveling is trying amazing food from all around the world. There are some really great places to eat in my neighborhood, but there is something special about trying places in other neighborhoods and countries. Heading to downtown Bangkok gives me this opportunity to try other worldly cuisine. Of course, there are many Thai restaurants downtown, but I probably have the better examples in my neighborhood that is not toned down to meet the tastebuds of millions of tourists who visit this city every year. Rather, I like to look for the other world cuisines that are not as present in my neighborhood, and one of the types of foods I always look for is a good sushi restaurant.
This is something that is harder to find in Southeast Asia than you would think. There are a couple of places I have found outside of Japan that are able to do this dish well, and one of the better ones happens to be off of the Phrom Phong BTS station down Soi 39. It is a small place with only six tables, but it does a great job of getting fresh fish and creating artistic bites to eat. It is by far the best sushi restaurant I have found in Bangkok so far. It does not rival the places that fill up during lunch time in Japan, but it would do really well in that country and hold its own against the people that created this cuisine in the first place.
My favorite part of eating sushi, besides the taste, is the presentation. I am not one of those people that take pictures of their food very often, and maybe I should be better at doing that considering I write a blog about my travels around the world. I know that people want to see those pictures, but usually when I go out to a restaurant, I am so excited to eat that when my food comes, I forget to pull out my phone and take a picture. But when I ate at Masu Maki, it was really easy to remember that this was something that I should do. They did such a beautiful job of presentation that I had to take a picture in order to remember it. I won’t give you the picture of what it looks like after I have finished because it isn’t as pretty, but when this gets placed in front of you, it is easy to get excited by what you are about to eat.
It is a great place to eat sushi in Bangkok, and if you have any other suggestions, please let me know because I love to find hidden gems like Masu Maki, especially when it comes to sushi.
If I ever made memes, this picture would be the perfect one to use. I could use the caption, “If 2020 was a ship.” It would be the perfect representation of what life was like last year in all parts of the world. We as a society were not completely sunk, but we also weren’t floating along gracefully. We were operating at half tilt and hoping to somehow make it through. It isn’t just the larger countries either. Thailand is a great example of this. If you were able to travel to Bangkok at this time, it wouldn’t appear that it was a problem, but if you made it to some of the other destinations that relied heavily on tourism, you would have seen a different picture. It would be a place that was barely hanging on to what they had built and would barely be plugging along. This is what I saw of the southern island of Koh Lanta during the last leg of my winter vacation before the country moved towards a lockdown situation.
Koh Lanta is one of the bigger destinations for Europeans because of its long beaches, amazing surf, great food, and charming downtown area. I have been told that it is especially popular with people from the Scandinavian countries. There are the typical things you would see from a tourist destination in a tropical country. It has multiple resorts perching themselves in prime spots on the beaches, open air restaurants and bars, and shops selling merchandise to remind people where they had been at one point in their lives. The only thing it was missing was the tourists.
The old town there is one of the biggest draws for the tourists, and this is what the parking lot on the edge of it looked like right at the height of the lunch rush. Being there at a time like this had its advantages. I did not have to fight the crowds that I would have usually had to fight, and the beaches were for the most part mine, but at the same time it was a hard thing to see. There were many shops that were closed up because they just did not have the business that they needed, or if they were still open, the owners would sit at the edge of their business begging anybody who walked by to come visit their shop before they had to join the other businesses with closed doors.
Of course this meant that the cream of the crop were the establishments that survived. The restaurants we went to were some of the best food we ever had while traveling in Thailand. There was the French Bakery that served great sandwiches and burgers as well as making some great looking pizza. There was the Greek Taverna that was owned by a man from Greece. They did not have a big menu but the gyros that they sold there were made by hand and had an authentic flavor to them. There was Tuesday Morning, a small shack that on the side of the road that could have easily been missed, but had the best smoothies and great Asian inspired sandwiches and salads. And my favorite had to be the Diamond Cliff, a bar on the southern side of the island. It had the atmosphere of a ship and served great Thai dishes as well as western fare. It just showed me that the touristy places that usually thought about location and not so much about food could not compete with the places that actually knew what they were doing in such an economy.
There was still the charm of the location as I still came across various wats, temples, and mosques that allowed the citizens of the islands to hold on to their faith, but once again these places were empty. Normally in a place like this, I would have waited for a couple of minutes to get a picture as I waited in line for the other people to get in their pictures. This time I was able to walk right up and did not have to settle for a picture with some random tourist in it.
I don’t know if this was because of the aftermath of the situation that the world is experiencing right now, or if it is because the situation had finally arrived in full force in Thailand and the country was now preparing for its second wave in this catastrophe. It points out an important thing about places. No location should focus all of their energy in one direction. It is nice to know that a place can perfect themselves in that one direction, and there was enough evidence in Koh Lanta to see that they knew what to do with tourism, but they did not know what to do when this one thing was taken away from them.
I know that there is hope on the horizon and eventually the world will be able to turn that corner to getting back to the way it used to be. Some places are just going to have to limp along a little longer until that time comes, and Koh Lanta is no exception. It will take a long time for them to return to the place that I could see they once were, and I hope that they will be able to do that some day because I would like to be able to come back and experience it the way that it was meant to be experienced and not just watch it limp along like it is right now.
One of the things I could not help but notice while relaxing on Phra Nang Beach in Railay, Thailand was the huge hole that had been carved out of one of the cliffs facing the sand. At first, I did not think that many people would be courageous enough to venture into it darkness, but every time I would look over, I would see a new set of people hanging on one of the precipices clearly visible and poses for photos because they wanted to preserve the moment for all time. It clearly was more easily accessible than what I believed from my vantage point.
It turns out that I was mostly correct. It is definitely accessible, but there are a couple of places where it might be a bit of a struggle, and even though I did see people accomplish this task while wearing flip flops, I am glad that I took the time to put on shoes before I made the attempt. Yes, they were a little uncomfortable as I made my way through the sand to the edge of the beach. I found the path right into the forest when I reached the place where the swing hung from one of the rocks, and if I had not found it on my own, there were enough people around who wanted to point me in the right direction. Once on the path, I had to duck and weave through a few branches to make it to the root of the mountain, and I don’t think it matters how tall a person is, they will have to do the same thing if they wish to continue.
Getting to the entrance of the cave is a little more difficult than coming back down. It is a steep hike, and I could see that if it rained the night before, the trail would be an muddy mess that would be impossible to climb. The town of Railay has tied up a thick rope that I used for support up which helped a lot, and I enjoyed it coming back down even more because I just repelled down the path making the descent really easy.
Once I got to the entrance of the cave, there was another new challenge if I really wanted to get up to the ledge where I saw so many tourists hanging out getting their picture. I had to climb up a rickety bamboo ladder that looked as if it was loosely tied to the side of the rocks. In reality, it was held into place better than it looked, and even though when I got to top it still looked a sketchy, it really was not that bad.
Once up there, I was able to explore the cave, and I went far back into it. The features were amazing and I could see the slow deliberate care that the elements used to carve out this little alcove into the cliff. There were many corners that I could look at, and I even brought a flashlight because I was told that it gets really dark the further back I got into it, but when I reached that entrance, my flashlight wouldn’t work anymore. So I didn’t go in.
It was probably for the best though. A few other people passed by me carrying rope and climbing gear and then disappeared down the same hole that I stood on the edge of, so a flashlight was probably not enough to get me in and out of that corner of the cave. There was still enough in the light to make the voyage up there worth it.
And the views were definitely worth it. It made an already spectacular place even more spectacular, and there were enough view that kept making it even greater. I could see why a couple people were always visible from the highest perch, and what brought people to this spot in the cliff.
It also gave both of us a sense of pride that we were able to conquer this little expedition. It was worth the trip, not only for the views, but also for the fun of getting up to the cave. It added a new twist to Phra Nang Beach and just another corner of Railay that was worth exploring.
It may only be a small outcropping of land on the southern tip of Thailand with only a handful of resorts on it, but it is one of the biggest tourist spots in the country. The pictures that are often shown of the country often include at least one from this location. Yet when I type in the name of this country into Facebook to share photos with my friends, the geniuses of grammar and spelling that put together their algorithm want to tell me that it is spelled Railway. In fact, it will often change it for me because they believe so much that this is what I wanted to say, but this is not where I am at. I am at Railay, Thailand.
Railay is a must see stop if you ever come to Thailand. It is located in the Krabi province, and even though it is part of the mainland, it can only be accessed by boat because of the huge cliffs that surround this stretch of land. You might have to wait a bit to get on one of these boats because they will wait until they have enough passengers to make sure that the trip is worth their time, but they only need a total of six to make it happen. And if you are traveling down here by car, there is an old parking lot that you can pay 200 baht at to make sure that your vehicle is secure.
But once you get there, the worries that you brought with you in your car get left behind quickly because you get lost in the views of this tiny resort town. It doesn’t matter where you turn, there is something new and exciting to see. They have huge cliffs that attract many rock climbers from all around the world. There are cave that have been dug into their limestones that can be explored. They have many beaches that you can lay out on, or even rent a kayak for a couple of hours to explore the tiny islands that pop up all along the coast. There is even a charming downtown area with nice bars and restaurants, and guides that will take you out kayaking or rock climbing.
It is a great town with lots to see and do. It is one of Thailand’s greatest tourist spots that people should know about including the fine people at autocorrect. It has been one of my biggest struggles while living in Asia. Many of the locations that I wish to texts about or post on Facebook are unknown to people out of Asia and the spelling of them is being constantly changed on me because some computer program is trying to tell me what it is I meant to say.
Either way, Railay is an amazing place and should be one that is written down on everybody’s bucket list. Just make sure that this list is not being kept on a computer because you will look at it later and wonder why you would want to go to the Railway before you die.
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.
There are two major beaches that can be found on the little peninsula of Railay. One of them is the West Beach which is where the boats serving food come up to, and there are bars and restaurants lining up for your business at the edge of the sand. If you are looking for something a little more quiet, I would suggest going to the Phra Nang Beach, or Princess Beach, on the tip of the peninsula. There are a couple of resorts here, but they tried to hide themselves among the jungle so it makes you feel like you are in a more isolated place.
If you are not staying at one of these resorts, you can get there by finding the path on the southern tip of the town. It is an interesting path in itself and worth searching for. It follows along a cliff face and there are many places where you can stop and take pictures of the rock formations that are being created. It is like spelunking without have to travel into the darkness of the caves. It even has many formations that are highlighted for everybody to see. I won’t ruin what they are, but they allow for some fun conversations along the way.
When I went, I was surprised at the crowds I first encountered along the way, and was even more surprised at the tiny beach that could be found at the end of the trail. The map I was looking at showed that the beach extended a lot further down the coast. I found out later that it was because of the tide and the beach was hiding beneath the waves. The crowds came from tour boats and only came once in the morning and then disappeared. They basically stuck to that small sliver of beach and would not venture out to the other side of the beach.
But it only takes a little bit of wading through warm water if you get here during high tide to make it to the other part of the beach, and you leave the crowds behind if you do this. If you come during low tide, you do not have to worry about the crowds or the wading and you can just walk along the beach. It is really worth the trip because there a lot of great formations to explore, and when you get tired of that you can always cool off in the refreshing waters of the ocean. It is one of the hidden gems in this part of the world, and really worth the trouble of getting there.