Moments to Remember

So, I’m not even sure where to begin on wrapping up my whole Asian experience. Of course, I had the time of my life. I did and saw things that people dream about. Honestly, before arriving in Asia, I couldn’t even show you on a map where Thailand or Bali was located. Really, the whole experience just blows my mind and often bring tears to my eyes. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would climb the Great Wall or ride an elephant through the jungles of Thailand or take a road trip in Bali or see the shocked faces of school children during a bus ride through the Philippines. These are the moments I will carry with me and talk about for the rest of my life.

Not only did I learn countless things about the world and other cultures, but I learned even more about myself. I realized that I am pretty hardy and adaptable. And that I can hold my own when I’m outside my comfort zone. Also, this experience taught me to dream big. I learned to be able to depend on someone. And that I am a good writer. I learned how to negotiate and not take shit from anyone. I learned to appreciate home. And really, I could go on and on.

And lastly, I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for Fabien inviting me to come with him. We will always share this amazing experience. I often go through our pictures and am thrilled that we have all of these great memories and stories we can share with our children and grandchildren. I don’t want to make you all nauseated and completely embarrass Fabien so I’ll just sum it up by saying that he is really the greatest man that ever lived in the entire universe and I love him so very, very, very much!

Well kids, this is the end of Stacie in Asia. The response, feedback and praise was simply overwhelming. I was stunned overtime I checked my stats and saw that I had over 100 hits a day. You all made me feel very loved and missed. So….as they say in Mandarin, Thai, Balinese and Filipino…..Xie xie, Kop khun kha, Matu suksama, Salamat or simply, THANK YOU!

Heaven on Earth, Part 3: Thailand

Thailand knows how to……

…not ruin it’s beautiful beaches and countryside with huge resorts and sky scraping hotels.

…have a good time. Hello, Songkran.

…cook the most amazing food. You want spicy? Great. No spicy? No problem. Seafood, vegetables, meat, noodles, rice…these are a few of my favorite things.

…treat tourists. Refer back to our immigration experience.

…speak English. But as a side note, their language and writing is like the beautiful version of Chinese.

…do airline customer service. Before you board your flight they offer free newspapers, drinks, snacks and internet. While on the flight, there is always a meal and whatever you want to drink….at no cost to you.

…price products and services. $0.40 tank tops, $9 for a purse, $1 bracelets, $2 t-shirts, $7 massages, $5 pedicures and the list goes on and on.

…how to handle a nature disaster. The Tsunami was in 2004 and pretty much all that is planned to be restored has been.

…be awesome, making it my favorite place I’ve ever visited.

Our trip was not all white sand beaches, blue skies and beautiful scenery. There were a few funny, China like moments. When we were in the middle of the ocean and leaving Ko Lanta, our boat caught fire. Fortunately, the crew was able to put it out quickly and we slowly coasted to our destination with just enough time to jump on our connecting boat. Next, we had to stay in Bangkok overnight before our flight back to Guangzhou on Sunday. All we wanted was a room close to the airport, with air conditioning, a pool and free breakfast. I called a place on Travelocity and it was only 1,200 Baht ($30) and they had rooms available that night. Our sketchy taxi driver took us a good 20 minutes from the airport, then down an even sketchier road where 3 barking dogs chased our car and pulled up to this 1970’s inspired hunting lodge. We walked in the lobby and discovered that it was not only a hotel, but a butcher shop and a boxing arena that had karoking and dancing every night until 1:00 am. As we where shown to our room, we saw the pool, which was a color of green that I have never seen before. Fortunately, the room was fine, the air worked and we had quite a few TV stations.

In conclusion, it was a fantastic trip and I will be ever grateful to Fabien for taking me on this adventure of a lifetime. We were both a little bummed to return to China and as soon as we set foot in the airport, the shenanigans started. We couldn’t find an ATM that would allow us to withdrawal money, the taxi driver wanted to charge us double because we are white, no one in the airport spoke English, etc., etc., etc. So for the next blog, I’ll be back to ripping on China.

Heaven on Earth, Part 2: The Andaman Coast

We only booked two nights in the Phuket area because we wanted to be free to travel the area. Also, there are literally thousands of hotels and it was difficult to sort through them on the internet. This was a good call because we enjoyed traveling to several cities and beaches. All of them were just so different in terms of landscape, atmosphere and people.

Patong Beach. This was the perfect place to start the beach portion of the trip. All you need to do is throw in hundreds of prostitutes and it’s the same thing as any American beach tourist town. After we checked into our hotel, we ventured out to the bar street and were propositioned about every 5 feet for “massages” and “go-go clubs”. In addition there were also girls working the street and dancing on tables in the open air bars. Classy.

We woke up early the next morning with a serious day of nothing but laying on the beach. An internet article warned that if you were traveling to Thailand in April, plan to be submerged in the ocean the entire time. They were right because it had to be close to 100 degrees. After we were both sufficiently sunburned we decided to spend the rest of the day shopping. Within a couple blocks of our hotel we were introduced to Songkran. This is the Thai New Year and we happened to be in the best celebration area. Since April is Thailands hottest month of the year, Songkran festival is all about having fun and cooling off by getting wet. People walk the streets with water guns and shoot the willing and unwilling, which is the most fun. After my gun broke, I just used two cups to throw water. We played for about four hours and then I was hungry and over it. But really, what a good time.

Khao Lak. We paid a measly price to go on an amazing excursion the next day. At 7:30 a.m., a mini-van picked us up and took us to what one website called, the most beautiful beach in Thailand, Khao Lak. This was also the hardest hit area from the 2004 Tsunami. One of the pictures I took was of a Police boat that was sent 2km inland from the massive waves.

Khao Lak is also where we did elephant trekking. Simply amazing. We rode them through streams, up hills, down hills, through the jungle, etc. Ours was so sweet and we rewarded him with pineapples after our ride.

Then in the afternoon, we stopped to feed some wild monkies. Surprisingly, they prefer Hostess cakes over bananas. From there we went on a little canoe ride through the limestone mountains of Khao Lak National Park. At one point, our guides stopped and we had some time to swim in the crystal clear river. A wonderful day.

Ko Phi Phi Don & Ko Phi Phi Leh. This is what people think of when they think of Thailand beaches. In fact, the movie, the Beach was based and filmed in this paradise. The bigger island, Ko Phi Phi Don, is a 2 hour boat ride from Phuket. It’s limestone peaks make for an interesting and beautiful landscape. Not to mention the water is beyond the bluest blue and the sand whiter than white. The pictures really don’t do it justice.

Once we arrived and checked into our bungalow (adorable), we had just enough time to hit the pool and beach to watch the sunset. We ended the day by eating Thai seafood dishes at a beachside restaurant and going to bed early because in the morning we signed up for a tour of the surrounding islands and secluded beaches.

This turned out to be my favorite day. We departed at 10 am and visited 6 spots in the Phi Phi area. Some of them were areas in the water where we could jump off the boat and snorkel and others where beaches. My favorite was the appropriately named, Monkey Beach. The little guys weren’t as friendly as the once who ate Hottess cakes and were seriously trying to defend their island. While we were taking pictures, on of them decided to see what we had in our bag. Then he took a liking to Fabien’s sun glasses and tried to make a run for it. Regardless, the place was secluded (only accessible by long boat) and beautiful. After we visited the famous beach where the movie was filmed, we watched the sunset on the boat. A perfect day.

Ko Lanta. We arrived early in the afternoon which not much planned. A tout talked us into a bungalow near the beach for about 12€. It wasn’t the Ritz Carlton, but it was worth the money. The beach was just a short walk and, again, just beautiful. There was almost no one in site, so we laid on the beach and swam for most of the day. At sunset we both got massages in little huts on the beach. It was such a relaxing day that we were back in the bungalow sleeping by 9 p.m.

The next morning we woke up and rented a motorbike to tour the island. It was definitely a little scruffier than the other places we’d been, but it had grass roots charm and it was near ghostown in the way of tourists.

Nai Yang. We had about 3 hours to kill before we could check into our flight so we decided to hang at a beach close to the airport, Nai Yang. We got in the taxi and told the driver to take us to his favorite restaurant in town. He responded telling us his sister worked at a great place. Usually not a good sign. We pulled up to a “restaurant” that consisted of tables with red and white linen clothes, topped off with tropical flowers and candles, next to strings of white lights in palm trees and tiki torches, on the beach and perfectly positioned to watch the pink, blue, purple and orange sunset that was going down. For the hundredth time on the vacation, Fabien rightfully patted himself on the back for being “so romantic”. It was bitter sweet because we had found the perfect beach and only had 3 hours to spend there. Even worse….in Ko Lanta the camera stopped working so I have no pictures. :( So after a fantastic dinner and, probably the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, we headed back to the airport to board our flight to Bangkok.