Ain’t Life Grand?

Ain’t Life Grand?

When I first started this current weekly update on my adventures through life, I was sitting in paradise, sippin’ on a Leo, watching the boats float by in the Andaman Sea and the sky change colors as the sun slowly set over the mountains.  Currently, I am sitting in my bed with the fan blasting on me, rethinking all that has happened in the last two weeks, and I can’t help but think, “Ain’t life grand?”

So I arrived back from Malaysia on a Wednesday night, and by Friday I was off on yet another adventure.  I slept for a few hours Thursday night and woke up early bird Friday to head to the airport.  My neighbor growing up and a dear friend of mine since I was five years old was coming to visit me in Thailand.  SUCH a wonderful feeling to see a familiar face from back home!  Tristen arrived early in the morning, and we spent the day relaxing in my condo before hopping on an overnight bus down to Krabi.  

The South


Our view from our hotel in Phuket.  

We woke up Saturday with palm trees all around us and beautiful, green, mountain cliffs hanging above us. Soakin’ up the stunning views surrounding us, we caught a taxi from the bus station to our hotel.  When we arrived we were greeted by the nicest ladies in a secluded, magical garden tucked away from all tourists.  We spent the rest of our day on a small beach in Ao Nang, where we caught some sun rays, cooled off in the clear, blue water, watched the beautiful sunset, and ate some Thai for dinner on the beachfront.

On Sunday we woke up at the crack of dawn and grabbed breakfast from our amazing hosts at Baan Habeebee.  They treated us to an awesome breakfast and loads of smiles from their genuine kindness.  (Seriously, they were the nicest people.  If you are ever looking for a place to stay in Krabi, make this place it!)  We then made our way to the pier where we went on a Four Islands tour.  Oh my goodness.  To try and explain how beautiful these islands are would honestly be near impossible.  Our first stop was Railay Beach which is famous for rock climbers.  There were beautiful limestone caves that towered over the clear, blue water.  The trip out there in our longtail boat was pretty amazing itself.  Each direction you looked there were views that were like something out of a dream.  We were on this particular island for just a short time, watching the rock climbers and laying out, before we hopped back on our cute boat and took off for Chicken Island.  Chicken Island, or Koh Khai, is an island nicknamed for it’s chicken head resemblance.  We jumped off the boat and into the water where we were able to swim and snorkel with some pretty beautiful fish and above some neat coral.  Our tour just kept getting better and better as we then ventured off to Koh Tap (Tub Island).  We pulled up on the white sandy beaches where we climbed up the hill to eat lunch with some stunning views.  There weren’t a lot of people here, so it was really awesome to see a few longtail boats posted up on the picture-perfect beach.  We finished off our tour at Koh Poda Island, which was just unreal.  Monkeys climbed in the trees and the sun beat down on us as we laid out in the heat, mesmerized by the beauty surrounding us.  

Lucky for us, this wasn’t the end of our perfect little day.  We ended up becoming friends with our tour guide, and we went back with him into the jungle where he lived.  It was probably one of my highlights of the day to be able to just hang out with some locals and see how they lived.  We were surrounded by a bunch of cool people, hanging out on some bamboo mats under the palm trees.  For dinner we went to a delicious Thai seafood restaurant where we watched the sunset and created our own pineapple beer.  I snapped a photo of the sunset, and looked at my camera to make sure it turned out.  Looking at it, I saw how unreal it looked.  It honestly looked faked; as if I had taken a picture of a picture.  The whole day seemed surreal: from the spectacular islands, to the unforgettable memories in the jungle, to the friendly locals; I couldn’t be more grateful for this life that I live, for this life that I love.  

On Monday morning we set off on a ferry to Ko Phi Phi.  If you have ever Google’d Thailand, you probably saw pictures of the beach, and this is pretty much what my beautiful surroundings consisted of.  Tristen and I were too sunburned to do much of anything, so we sat in the shade on our awesome rooftop and just enjoyed the view.  We were able to grab some dinner at the Banana Bar, where I got to indulge in some Mexican food for pretty cheap (score!) and enjoy the free movie screening of The Beach, which was actually filmed on this island.  At night, we walked up the beach and watched all the amazing fire spinners.  Seriously, I have never seen so many people spin fire poi as incredible as these people.  I felt really lucky I got to lay my eyes upon these talented artists!  It was crazy cool.


On the beach in Phuket.

Tuesday morning we hopped back onto yet another ferry, this time heading off to Thailand’s best known paradise: Phuket.  Tristen’s definitely a planner, and she got us hooked up at this little gem tucked away on a private beach.  We spent the next two days laying on the beach and just enjoying the simple beach life, soaking up the sun and sippin on good drinks.  We saw some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. On our last day in Phuket, we ventured off to enjoy the quiet streets and shopping of Old Phuket Town, the stunning views of Big Buddha overlooking the whole island, and caught one last breathtaking sunset on the mountain with the most delicious drinks.  We finished off our final night in paradise with dinner in the crazy area of Patong Beach.  Phuket was an amazing time, and I definitely plan on visiting again soon.

The North


Out to dinner with Evy and Tristen.

Tristen and I spent Friday catching a flight to Chiang Mai, one of my all time favorite places in Thailand.  Chiang Mai was the first place I lived and where I first spent my time in Thailand.  It holds a special place in my heart, and that whole city in itself is just something so magical.  That night upon arriving, I was lucky enough to meet up with Evy and her amazing mother and step-dad.  We all went out to eat at an amazing restaurant, and I was reminded of how spoiled I was in terms of food when I was living up in Chiang Mai.  The food up north is seriously, in my opinion, the best food in Thailand.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  All three of us girls went back to our old stomping grounds at Zoe’s where we danced and enjoyed mojitos from our old favorite place.  The night life in Chiang Mai is definitely a good time, and Tristen and I made the best of it, hanging out with locals from The Gypsy House and staying out until 4 in the morning.  

We woke up a few hours later to catch a tour through Doi Inthanon National Park, one of the most majestic places in Chiang Mai.  We saw the beautiful Vajirathan and Siribhumi Waterfalls, and we climbed up to the highest peak in Thailand.  We also got the chance to explore the Karen tribe’s village, where we witnessed how they made some beautiful scarves, which was really neat.  We finished off our tour up at the Twin Pagodas, which is one of my favorite places.  This place is so amazing that is truly hard to even describe.  There are thousands of beautiful flowers everywhere, and the Twin Pagodas make you feel as though you are in one of Walt Disney’s magical lands.  I sat on the edge of a wall looking down into the endless hills and mountains below me.  This place is so serene that I could easily get lost for hours here.


Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

The next morning we woke up early (does anyone else see a pattern here?  We were seriously productive this vaca) to meet up with Evy and her awesome her mother and step-dad.  The five of us then headed up to Doi Suthep.  Doi Suthep is a beautiful temple on top of a mountain (Doi is the Thai word for mountain).  I absolutely love this place and the story behind it.
Little Thai History Lesson:  Doi Suthep was established in 1383 under King Ku Naone. A visiting monk had found a relic, which many had claimed to be a bone of Buddha.  The monk gave the king one half of this relic that possessed magical powers. The relic was then mounted on a white elephant, the most sacred animal in Thailand.  This elephant wandered the mountain until it died.  This spot where the elephant died was interpreted as an omen, the “chosen” spot, and is now where Doi Suthep stands.
I could probably go to Doi Suthep a million times and never get tired of seeing it.  This place is full of beauty.  Overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep includes an astonishing gold temple, a beautiful emerald Buddha, an amazing smell of hundreds of burning incense, and the sounds of monks chanting and blessing you.  Just stepping foot at this place brings such an overwhelming sense of peace over you.  I am so glad I got to experience this place again with such a wonderful group.  (Thanks Janet and Michael for being so great!)  Evy, Tristen, and I then went out to a great lunch where I got to eat some real pizza.  (Obviously it was no Chicago pizza, but it was pretty amazing.)  We spent the final hours of our day exploring Chiang Mai’s Sunday market, which is enormous and has just about everything and anything you could possible want for super cheap.  After grabbing some delicious street food for dinner, Tristen and I hopped on our overnight bus for our next destination: Ayutthaya.

Central Thailand


Tristen enjoying a cricket on Khao San Road in Bangkok.

On Monday morning we arrived at the “bus stop” in Ayutthaya.  This bus stop wasn’t much of a bus stop though, but rather a wood-constructed covering that marked home for a group of motorbike taxi drivers located conveniently in the middle of nowhere alongside the highway.  It was equipped with some hammocks, a picnic table, and even had a television.  Since it was only 5:30 in the morning, and we couldn’t even arrive to our hotel until 8, the guys were kind enough to let us hang out with them.  I posted up in a hammock for a bit, but being so close to the highway, I couldn’t manage to fall asleep.  So Tristen and I decided to play a card game of War to kill some time.  The guys found this hilarious which made the game a bit more entertaining (gambling is illegal in Thailand, so seeing two falangs playing cards must have been quite the site. *Side note: we weren’t gambling, so we did nothing illegal because we would never break any laws.)  The men were really great though and even made us some coffee while we waited around.

When we finally arrived to our hotel, we ate some breakfast, and then decided to rent bicycles to do some exploring.  Ayutthaya is a really interesting little city.  It once used to be one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the east side of the world.  It also used to be the capital of Thailand before the Burmese destroyed the city.  There’s a lot of neat history within the ruins of this place, and it’s a really cool place to see, when it’s not 100 degrees.  So we saw as much as we could before the heat got to be unbearable.  We then decided to head back to the hotel to swim and relax in the pool.  Once late afternoon came around and it cooled off a bit, we grabbed our bikes and headed to the Reclining Buddha to catch the sunset.  For dinner we grabbed some street food, and I was able to enjoy some of the best Pad Thai from a local vendor.  We met up with my friend, Isabel, from my TESOL course up in Chiang Mai.  We were on our way to grab a drink and some dessert when the unthinkable happened.  Some guy on a motorbike drove up next to me on my bicycle and grabbed my purse.  I have never been robbed before, so this came as a bit of a shock.  I had my wallet, phone, some of my only souvenirs I acquired from Laos, Malaysia, and Cambodia, and my camera.. the one thing that I am still a bit heartbroken about.  It had all my pictures from the last three months that I still had yet to upload.  But as my dear friend, Bill, says, “You can’t steal our good times from my memory bank.”  While it all happened so fast, in my head it still repeats in slow motion.  I can’t sit here and play the “What If” game though because that never does any good.  I am pretty lucky though.  Why?  Obviously not because I got robbed, but because things could be much worse; because I came to realize that night how truly lucky I am.  Never once in my life have I ever felt the need to take from another person.  That guy who stole from me obviously felt that he had to have my purse.  He had to take that risk that there might be something of value to him in there that would help him get by a little bit easier.  I realized that night how lucky I am because I am able to earn what I own, and I don’t have to take in order to have what I do.  So in the scheme of things, it sucks I no longer have those things, but they are all materialistic items, and no one can steal what’s stored in my memory bank.  (Special shout out to the random guy who came and brought me a beer to help me feel better, Tristen and Isabel for being sweethearts and sticking around at the police station with me, and my lovely little brother for always knowing how to bringing smiles and laughter to my rough nights.)

The next morning Tristen and I headed back to my place in Bangkok.  We spent her last two days taking it pretty easy.  Tuesday night we met up with my lovely friend Sara Beth for dinner out on Khao San Road, where I was graced with the pleasure of catching up with her kind, sweet soul.  On Tristen’s final night, we grabbed dinner at my favorite place close by with some of my awesome friends.  

It was an amazing two weeks of traveling around this country that I now call home.  It was wonderful to explore places old and new.  We had some crazy adventures and some relaxing days.  We made new friends, and I was able to catch up with some old friends along the way.  Through the good and bad, there isn’t a thing I would change about the experiences and memories we created.  Life has a funny way of working sometimes, but I am eternally grateful for all it throws at me.  I am grateful for this life that I get enjoy each day, and I am determined to seek out the joys in every new day that comes my way.  

“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”  

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