Krabi and Railay Beach – Thai Climb Time

Thai Climb Time
Railay Beach!

After a wonderful time in Penang, Malaysia we bought a van ride to Krabi, Thailand for Thai climb time!  For 60 Ringgit each we were speeding across the bridge from Penang back into mainland Malaysia before dawn.  The van trips are cheaper and faster than the bus, and they take you across the border which is convenient.  You can charter the vans at most hotels and hostels.  The border crossing was quick and easy.  We got a visa stamp for 30 days on arrival and no one asked for our onward ticket.  About onward tickets: every country officially requires them but they are rarely asked for.  The only time they generally ask is when you check in for an international flight, but when you cross into a country by land they rarely ask.  Our new trick is to screen shot an old flight itinerary and simply change the date on Photoshop to sometime within the visa requirements.

Our van stopped at Hat Yai, the first city in southern Thailand.  We had to change vans there so had a break to get some Thai Baht (33 Baht = $1USD) out of an ATM and grab a few snacks. Hat Yai is generally not the best city for tourists, so we didn’t plan to linger. We’ve heard its very popular for Malaysians who like to party and enjoy the lax prostitution laws.  Not really our scene though.

A little after 1pm we rolled into the Krabi main bus terminal excited for the next day’s Thai climb time.  From there we got a “sŏng tăew“, a cheap pickup truck shared taxi where you sit in the covered truck bed on benches along the side.  It’s a fun and cheap way to get around, charging about 1/3 of the regular taxi price.  We got our first views of the amazing cliffs that we came here to see, green tops dropping sharply into the ocean and rivers.  We got off at Khong Kha Pier where longtail boats depart for Railay Beach whenever six people are ready to go.  It costs 150 Baht per person and took about 45 minutes to get out to the beach.

Thai Climb Time
Krabi Boats to Railay Beach

Once on the boat we of course had to stop for gas, then after the gas run the boat wouldn’t start and we almost got stuck drifting under a pier for a moment.  But eventually the old longtail boat started and we were on our way, spilling black smoke into the air and speeding very inefficiently in the direction of more cliffs and some very ominous looking storm clouds.

Thai Climb Time
Longtail Boat ride to Railay Beach.

Thai Climb Time

The views were out of this world, it reminded me of something but I didn’t find out til later that this was the site of filming for “Dr. No”, one of my favorite James Bond films!  Within moments of arriving it started to downpour.  We hurried down the floating pier, passing many Russians on holiday with their rolling suitcases and high heels, trying hilariously not to slip and fall straight into the ocean.  After waiting for a bit at the first shelter we found, we walked down the beach walk to a stairway which led to our guesthouse.  Rapala Rock Wood Resort had cheap bungalows, no frills but everything we needed.  Little shacks with palm roofs and mosquito nets and fans are what makes us happy. As soon as we had set our stuff down the sky cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.

Thai Climb Time
Our Bungalow

Being super hungry, we set off on what was suppose to be a short walk to Mama’s Chicken.  It turned out to be quite an adventure since it was on the other side of a little jungle.  We first went to the west side beach (Railay is a peninsula with two sides, sunrise and sunset) then we hiked up though a little muddy trail, over some rocks, and onto Tonsai Beach.  The overhanging rocks here we impressive but we were on a mission for food.  At the other end of this beach we found the small road to nowhere that led past some sleepy guesthouses and a few dark climbing shops.  All the way around on the other side we found Mama’s, a super rustic open-air restaurant.  We got some pad thai and fruit shakes and filled our empty bellies.

Thai Climb Time
Pad Thai!
Thai Climb Time
Papaya Salad!

After eating we continued up the path which lead through the jungle and back to Railay, a much faster way.  We went around town to a few climbing shops and rented a rope and gear from one of them for 1200 Baht for a day.  That was about half the price of the guided tours and we were confident that we could do it on our own.  Before bed I had a beer at the bar near our bungalow.  The bartenders were super friendly and made me feel very welcome.  I learned how to say “thank you” in Thai (“korp kun krup!”) and was pumped about my first glimpses into the famous Thai hospitality.

Thai Climb Time
Giant black squirrels with two-foot long tails!  They would eat bananas right out of your hand!

Thai climb time! In the morning it rained and I was having some stomach issues, so we didn’t get out to climb as soon as we wanted to.  When we did get to a climbing spot everything there was a little above our level then we got frustrated and had a fight.  Not gonna pretend everything is always perfect between us on this blog!  We are human after all!  I was so excited about climbing that I got crazy and ended up slipping in the mud and pacing around in a rage.  The rains were coming in again now so we had to go back to our bungalow.  Oh, the frustrations.  I eventually calmed my crazy self and we went back out and found a few routes on the 1,2,3 Wall and Muay Thai Wall.

Thai Climb Time
Ready to send!
Thai Climb Time
Muay Thai Wall.

It was important to find walls with the new Thaitainium Project bolts, as the original steel bolts have become unsafe by the constant exposure to salty air.  All these challenges added up and it wasn’t until the end of the day that we each got to climb a few routes, and then we got tired so quickly from being out of shape!  I think it was a success in the end, but it was definitely character building.  We had a few sends and it felt good to get back on the rocks.  The adrenaline made me feel alive again and we couldn’t wait to come back for more.  In December WE WILL BE BACK!!!

Here’s a kind-of-lame video of us being kind-of-lame at climbing.  Next time we go to Railay we hope to be stronger and have a DRONE to make an awesome video for you all!

 

If you are climbing in Thailand or anywhere else, Mountain Project is the best online resource for climbers.  Enjoy hearing about Thai climb time in Railay Beach?  Find more climb stories from California and Arizona in our archives!

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Hostel Holidays : Sharing Traditions Around the Globe

Hostel Holidays are the best holidays.  You meet friends from all over the world and share a special time together.  It’s an incredible opportunity for travelers to learn about new holidays they don’t celebrate at home.  Sharing holidays is an important part of cultural exchange.  It creates a bond between the traveler and the local that becomes the base of friendship.  Having activities like these are what makes great hostels great.

Hostel Holidays
American Thanksgiving is a fun way for skinny backpackers get some nourishment.

Take Thanksgiving for instance– it’s a great hostel holiday.  It’s so much fun to cook a huge feast of all your childhood favorites and show the other backpackers what they’ve been missing out on their whole lives.  This year we are planning a food and wine buffet at Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok.  Mashed potatoes are of course the most important part, with lots of butter and salt.

Hostel Holidays
American Thanksgiving, hostel style!

While Carrie was working at a hostel on Christmas in San Diego they would have a special free breakfast buffet with champagne mimosas, then do the “present ball” game with dollar store gifts!  You could also do a white elephant gift exchange, creating mayhem by swapping and stealing each others presents.  It always turns into a bunch of laughing and merry hooting and hollering.  Getting some free drinks into your customers is a good way to start the holiday off right!  This is why hostel holidays are the best!

Hostel Holidays
Christmas Cookie Decorating!

As a local, it’s nice to keep travelers up to date on the upcoming holidays – especially if it involves stores closing or transportation headaches.  One of our craziest holiday experiences while traveling was when we were in Morocco for Eid al Fitr.  Eid is the biggest holiday of the year for Muslim families.  Signifying the end of the Ramadan fasting period, Eid is the yearly giant feast.  Most families will purchase a sheep which is slaughtered on the morning of the feast.  The week before the feast it’s a sight to behold with sheep being shuffled around all over the city.  There were sheep on the backs of motorbikes, parking lots turned into temporary “sheep parking”, and sheep just about everywhere.  We walked into the apartment complex where we were CouchSurfing.  Our host sniffed the air like “What’s that smell?” and tried to open the basement door.  “Sheep parking in the basement!“, he realized.  We called it the sheep genocide.  The festival impacted where in Morocco we could travel as the bus tickets were almost all purchased by locals in advance.  We ended up having to change most of our trip but since we’re flexible we still had fun.

You should also create events for your guests around the holidays.  If there is a Christmas parade in town, take them to go see it!  Free food for a Buddhist vegetarian festival?  Make signs and organize a tour there!  Contact us at globaltravelernetworks@gmail.com for more tips on hostel activities and how you can make your hostel holidays great!

Friendly Nomad Feature: Mattera: Life Designing and Psychotherapy

This is the first in a series of posts we’re starting that will feature the businesses of our traveling friends and clients of Global Traveler Networks!  We’re featuring amazing people who we 100% support and helping them spread the word about the good they are offering the world!

Mattera Life Designing & Psychotherapy
Iosif & Natalia of Mattera Life Designing & Psychotherapy

Iosif and Natalia of Mattera Life Designing & Psychotherapy are quite inspirational.  We met them randomly over the internet and they kindly offered us a free first psychotherapy session of “couples therapy from a couple” as they call it.  Their focus is in combining psychotherapy, metaphysics and spirituality to create a holistic approach to bettering your life.  Originating from Romania but currently based in Bali , they conduct their sessions in person or via Skype.  Most of their clients are people who have already broken out of the so-called “normal realm” of thinking and are looking for the next level of consciousness.  Long term travelers and digital nomads could find them the most beneficial, since when living overseas its hard to know where to go or who to turn to if you would like to talk to a therapist.  Also, local therapists from the country you are in might not understand your background and your nomadic lifestyle!

Mattera Life Designing and Psychotherapy
Our Skype Session!

One of the most interesting things that we talked about in our session was our fears around money.  Natalia and Iosif really opened our eyes to the difference between the “spending mindset” vs the “investing mindset. ” Whenever you are using money for any reason, do you think of it as “spending” i.e. the scary loss of money, or as “investing” into yourself.  “God is in you, and you can trust god” said Natalia, “You must know that you will be given all that you need, when you need it”.

Mattera is picky about the people they take on for sessions as they are better suited to those who have already started along the path of expanding their conscious awareness.  The best way to describe their target market might be “hippie traveler digital nomads”.

If you go to their website, mattera.life, you can sign up for a free first session so Iosif and Natalia can get to know you a little bit.  They want to open doors for you inside of yourself, so you can search around for your own happiness.  Some of their areas of expertise are helping people with limiting beliefs, emotional blockages and traumas, and accessing higher states of consciousness. Their theory is that by building your life in the right way, the universe will conspire to give you everything that you need.

Website: Mattera.life

Instagram: @matteratraveling

Facebook: HERE

Email: manifest@mattera.life

Mattera Life Designing and Psychotherapy

Penang National Park and Environmental Observances

On our last day on the island we took the bus to Penang National Park, about an hour ride from central Georgetown.  There were several possible hikes but the Canopy Walkway was under renovation so we settled on the hike to Monkey Beach. 

Here is a short video of our adventure.  Make sure to check out 1:25 for some angry monkeys.

Penang National Park
Jungle ground in Penang National Park
Penang National Park Jelly Fish
A giant jellyfish in Penang National Park

We spent over an hour walking the jungle path until we came to the beach.  We sipped coconuts and had the usual arguments with the monkeys.

Penang National Park - Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach

They never like me very much and it never fails that we end up screeching at each other.  There were a lot of the little buggers and they had big teeth so we let them win this time.  We didn’t eat enough breakfast for such a long hike and were super hungry by the end (having only eaten like twice before leaving).  So we got some roti (fried folded delicious bread) while waiting for the bus back.

Penang National Park
Penang National Park

We were upset with the amount of trash in Penang National Park and saw quite a few Malaysian hikers throw their empty bottles right onto the beach.  Several people on Monkey Beach were selling a variety of drinks, all in small plastic bottles but there were no trash bins and it was obviously too much work for people to just carry it out.  A group of 20-30 middle school students passed us, each with their own small plastic bottle of water.  We talked while hiking out about how they could clean up all the trash in a few days with just a few people.  Near the entrance we came upon five park employees sweeping leaves off the path.   Yes that’s right, FIVE PEOPLE.  SWEEPING. LEAVES. OFF. A. PATH. IN. THE. JUNGLE.  I was really frustrated by the whole system and I tried to calmly explain this to the Park Ranger at the front gate on our way out.

Me: “Why do so many people throw trash on the beach?”

His response, waving his hands as if it’s hopeless: “They are local people.”

Me: “Do you tell them not to do it?”

He smiled and said, “Have a nice day!”

Well, that was that.  Non-confrontational Malaysian culture for the win!  Reflecting upon it, I don’t blame the people anymore.  Yes, we all need to be more conscious of the products we buy and the waste we produce but I blame the governments for not educating their people better and most of all the companies that produce the bottles.  If I were Supreme Dictator of The World, the Coca-Cola company would no longer exist.

Want to read more about Penang? Check it out here!

Street Food Heaven – Penang, Malaysia

georgetown
Shophouses in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Buddhist ceremony in Georgetown

Penang, Malaysia had been on our bucket list since before we even knew what country it was in (😳embarrassing)!  One sleepy afternoon years ago, we were watching Anthony Bourdain on “Parts Unknown” stuff his face at Line Clear in Georgetown and decided then and there that any trip to Asia would have to include Penang.  After all, it was street food heaven right? We had five nights planned!  We decided to stay at the Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel because everyone on the backpacker trail was talking about it.  The price was kind of high at 40 Ringgit for a dorm bed but included was free breakfast, all-day coffee and water, and two strong drinks at the bar.  The bar area closes at 11 after the nightly beer pong tournament then everyone goes on a pub crawl down the street to Love Lane where you can continue the party as late as your heart desires.

most popular new hostel in malaysia
Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel
Tipsy Tiger Hostel Party
The Bar At Tipsy Tiger
love lane party street
Love Lane – Party Street Penang

The Tispy Tiger was a good time but after two nights of craziness we were ready for something more chill.  Our second accommodation, The Frame Guesthouse, a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways.  We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.

Malaysia-139
The Frame lobby — a minimalist hostel in an old framemaker’s shop

The highlight of Penang for us was the street food.  Every corner had different stuff and you could really experience the fusion of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines.  We tried to eat as much as possible, always opting for fourth and sometimes fifth meal.  It was a hard life.  Most of the food vendors have a few tables where you can sit and eat, and most require you to buy a bevarage- beer, soda or fresh-squeezed juice- if you use the table.  It really was a street food heaven.  Here are our favorites!

street food heaven
Laksa noodles- get in my belly
street food heaven
Pohpiah – like a large spring roll stuffed with tofu, veggies, and chili sauce!
street food heaven
Biggest Indian Meal Ever!
street food heaven
Obama Vegetarian Spring Rolls from Red Garden Food Paradise
street food heaven
Fermented pork belly noodles
street food heaven
Cendol – Icy Bean Dessert
street food heaven
More laksa bowls, yum!
penang food
Banana Leaf Indian
vegan food malaysia
In a healthy turn of events, we got vegan food from Wholey Wonder.  Yum!  The unicorn “cheesecake” is naturally-colored from the different superfruits in the layers.  So awesome!

One of the best places to eat is the famous Red Garden Food Paradise.  They usually have some singers and dancers in the center stage and around the edges there are so many different food vendors selling dishes from all over the world.  It has a very classic feel with red plastic chairs and happy families sharing tables stacked with food.  It’s always busy and opens at 6pm nightly.

red garden food stalls
Red Garden

My favorite late night spot was the 24-hour joint Line Clear.  Always a line and barely a menu, they kind of yell “What do you want?” when you get to the front then they slop it on a plate with rice and you get a scoop of sauce from each of the curries.  The food they sell is called nasi kandar, which pretty much means “country rice.”  It’s simple and everything you ever wanted after having a few beers on Love Lane.  Street Food Heaven indeed!

line clear nasi kandar
Line Clean 24hr Nasi Kandar.  Surprisingly they even had some vegetarian options for Carrie!

24 hour nasi kandar

Georgetown is unique in Asia because it largely avoided the bombings of World War II and the following wars.  Only a few bombs were dropped there so the old architecture has remained, giving the city a whole lot of character.   The only negative is the lack of sidewalks; you basically just walk along the side of the road and hope you don’t get clobbered by a drunk, texting motorbiker.  There was a lot of unique street art, most memorable of which were the cartoon wire sculptures depicting life in Penang throughout the years.

Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art
Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown Street Art

As in the rest of Malaysia, the mishmash of cultures and religious blends peacefully and beautifully in Penang.  So, I’ll leave you with a sunset over the downtown mosque and Hindu temple.

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque in Georgetown

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple in Georgetown
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

 

5 Things All Great Hostels Have In Common

oceanbeachhostel
USA Hostels Ocean Beach

While spending years traveling the world, we’ve stayed in a LOT of great hostels.  Sometimes we check out the trendy new ones, sometimes we try to save money and go bottom budget.  Besides the obvious necessities like cleanliness and safety, here are some things that make for great hostels:

1) Activities:

Hostel activities are the best way to make friends while traveling.  It is also usually the cheapest way to do the things that you want to do anyways.  These actives could be free yoga, beach bonfires, beer pong tournaments, surf lessons, language exchanges, exploring the market, or hiking adventures.  Some hostels go as far as to focus their whole marketing strategy around their actives, like Volcano Boarding at Bigfoot Hostel in Leon, Nicaragua

2) Free Breakfast

Not paying for that first meal is important to long term travel.  Some breakfasts are better than others but it’s nice to at least get some coffee, bread, and fruit.  The best breakfasts ever were at the Casas Particulares in Cuba where we one time were served 8 different types of fruit, in addition to bread, eggs, and cheese.

3) A Bar and Restaurant

Sometimes you just want to stay in and hang out with travelers.  Hostel bars are the best place to do that.  They provide an international vibe that some towns lack.  Sometimes the bar is the attraction itself, like Loki Hostels in South America or the Tipsy Tiger in Penang, Malaysia.

4) Chilling Areas

Comfortable places to meet new friends, use your laptop to advance your digital nomad dreams, and share stories of your adventures are a must.  These areas range from bean bag chairs, to hammocks, to comfy couches or soft green grass.  For places with dorms this is the area that most people will spend their time.  The swimming pool at Equity Point in Marrakech wins our vote for best chillin’ area.

5) Fast WiFi

Some countries just have terrible internet all over.  But sometimes the hostel gets cheap and goes for the internet package that wouldn’t load AIM in the 90’s.  You. must. have. fast. Wifi.  It’s so nice to be able to upload photos to Facebook or Skype your family back home in Ulakalakalakastan or wherever you’re from. Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok wins for fastest hostel WiFi ever.

6) Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff

You want tours, you want advice, you want someone who will laugh with you at your stupid mistake of waking up early to spend all of your money on taxis to the airport one day too early (oops). The staff should make you feel at home and help you have the best time possible.  By far the best staff we’ve met were at USA Hostels Ocean Beach, San Diego, California.

We know we said 5, but wasn’t 6 better?

Other things that make your stay better:

– Privacy curtains on dorm beds.

– Water refill station.

– No bed bugs.  Sometimes if places look grimy it’s better to just pay the extra $1 for no bed bugs.  Check out our post on how to remove bed bugs from your stuff.

– Free maps.

– Free earplugs (for the party hostels).

– Instagramable decor – you know you want to brag to your friends back home.

Sometimes in the end everything is not perfect, but sometimes those imperfections are what makes great hostels an experience.  I mean, you could have stayed in a hotel and gotten a good nights sleep. But after you go out with your new hostel best friends and dance on the bar until 6am, you never think “man, I wish I would have gotten a hotel and some sleep!”  Well sometimes you do, but that doesn’t make a very good story now, does it?

If you’re interested in finding some good places to stay, check out our HOSTEL REVIEWS page and get out there on your own aventura!  What important in great hostels to you?  We’d love your feedback!

Why Your Hostel Needs A Marketing Consultant

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We are hostel marketing consultants and in our years of traveling we have stayed at a LOT of hostels.  The difference between a good hostel and a GREAT hostel is often so small that it’s hard to notice from an inside perspective.  We have worked with almost 50 different hostels and hotels on five different continents.  Our hostel marketing, consulting, writing, photos, and videos have helped many places jump the gap from failure to success.

Here are the 5 biggest reasons why you should hire a hostel marketing consultant:

1) A Different Perspective:  

When you are at your hostel day after day, you become blind to the real problems.  You also get attached to things that are maybe not the best ideas.  A hostel consultant can help you fix problems and think outside the box.

2) Knowing What Foreigners Want:

You know what the locals want; we know what the tourists want.  Travelers want clean, easy, safe, and fun!  Places and activities that might seem unexciting to locals might be exactly what travelers want!

3) English Promotions On Different Media Types:

Eye-catching social media posts are crucial to your success.  Nowadays, many travelers only use Instagram and Facebook to plan their trips.  Having a follower base and daily exciting posts are crucial to building your business.

Here are some examples of Instagram accounts from hostels we have worked with:

4) Keeping Up With The Times:

The hostel world is always changing.  When you are managing a hostel there is little time for exploring other countries, scoping out your competition, or keeping up with events and attractions around your area.  We love travel and the first thing we do when consulting with hostels is to get to know their area like a local, but seeing it though the eyes of a tourist.

5) Professional Photos, Highlights Videos, and Blogging

We specialize in making your hostel shine!  iPhones can take pictures, but having professionally edited photos from real cameras sets you above the competition.   Highlight videos let people feel like they are actually there from the comfort of their own home.  They show how fun, clean, and comfortable your hostel really is.  We want your hostel to be a tourist attraction in itself.  A website blog highlights attractions in your area which increases the traffic to your website and your hostel!

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 11.31.19 AM
The website blog for Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok

How we can help:

Contact us at globaltravelernetworks@gmail.com to discuss hostel marketing and consulting help for your business!

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Click HERE for more ways to work with us!