Trains have a certain inexplicable charm that you can’t find in any other kind of transportation. But as exciting as it is to get on a train for a long-haul trip, the truth is that it’s not always guaranteed to be a good one. If you have read about our all-night train ride from Tangier to Marrakech, you’ll know that it can be a hellish experience if you’re ill-prepared. Here are some tips to master the art of traveling by train that you can keep in mind for your future adventures.
Always check for rail passes
Rail passes can be very cost-effective for travelers and backpackers in general, as they give access to multiple train lines and save you from long queues. Most railway systems have rail passes, so check for them online or ask the staff at the train operator’s office. The Eurail pass, for instance, is a great travel option for a cross-country European trip.
Japan, which is world-renowned for its highly efficient train systems, also provides a rail pass. It can be used on all of the country’s national trains, central loops, Shinkansen or bullet trains, and even buses and ferries. In other words, it effectively provides access to anywhere in the country. At ¥38,880 yen ($345) for a 7-day pass, it is not exactly cheap, but public transportation in Japan is still a lot more expensive. For instance, Just One Way Ticket noted that a single-journey ride on the Narita Express will cost an adult ¥4,000 ($35). Due to how much you can save, locals often use the Japan rail pass, too. In addition to tourists, it’s especially popular among Japanese sales professionals who travel frequently for client meetings. They move around so much, and it reached a point where the main cities in the country started to build capsule hotels. Their main customers are actually business professionals who work too far from home and need to get some rest before taking the train early the next day. In fact, many of these capsule hotels are located near train stations because of the aforementioned reasons. They are also a viable accommodation option for backpackers who simply need somewhere to sleep.
If you only need to get a single round trip ticket, check if the train accepts online bookings. You can never over-stress the importance of getting a reservation, especially for trains that tend to sell out fast, like the ones we traveled in, while visiting Sri Lanka. In a previous La Aventura Project post, we mentioned that first, second, and third class tickets can be bought online. A third-class seat is recommended for backpackers, as they are convenient enough for a long ride, and will also see a good mix of locals and tourists in the cabins. At the end of the day, who needs to travel first class, when you have beautiful views in front of you to occupy you during your train journey?
Avoid the busy parts
When traveling in dense metropolitan areas, it is necessary to consider foot traffic. Take the subway system in NYC for instance, which is notoriously crowded. In fact, it’s only becoming worse year after year because the city is seeing a rise in tourist numbers. A total of 62.8 million people visited the Big Apple in 2017, which was a record-breaking number for the eighth consecutive year. It doesn’t help that there are many residents situated near the stations either. Yoreevo notes that living near a subway station is a popular choice for home buyers in the city. This is why knowing where the most number of people get on and off the train can give you an edge over other passengers. One tip is to look at the dirtiest areas of the loading platform, as these are typically the ones with the most foot traffic, which you can then avoid. If you’re a backpacker, avoiding foot traffic will dramatically increase your chances of getting a seat.
All things considered, the key to mastering the art of traveling by train is planning. Get to know the stations, pick less crowded carriages, and talk to commuters. There are many hidden rules to discover that can aid you when traveling. If your trip is well-planned, there rest is all improvisation and a little bit of luck.
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With international tourism becoming accessible and popular with more and more people across the globe, it is important for travelers to not leave trails of trash in their wakes. One of the easiest ways to be a more sustainable traveler is by decreasing your plastic consumption along your journey. This may seem challenging at first, but time and practice will make it feel easy and natural. The single greatest thing you can do is change your own habits, simultaneously influencing those around you to change theirs as well. Every sustainable traveler makes a big difference, and we advise you not to strive for perfection, but just to try to be a little better one step at a time.
Plastic is the enemy:
Even as more people are becoming aware of the harms of single-use plastic, each day more and more is being used around the world. Here are some fun facts about plastic that will make even the coldest-hearted people feel a little something.:
1. During the last 10 years alone, we have produced more plastic than in all of the 20th century.
2. Up to 50 percent of all plastic produced is used ONE TIME and thrown away.
3. Nearly half of all plastic floats (EPA 2006) and plastic production uses about 8% of global oil annually. Bioplastics are not sustainable, as they use food sources and water for production.
4. Every piece of plastic produced still exists on the earth, except for the small amount which has been burned. It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to decompose.
Here are 8 of the easiest ways that you can reduce your plastic consumption while traveling and save money while you’re at it!
1. Refill or filter water into your own bottle:
Refill your bottle if available:
Not buying water is the thing travelers we talk to find most challenging. Recently, we’ve found many hotels offering water refills for cheaper than buying a bottle at the store. These hotels have discovered that they sell more water when they do it this way, decreasing plastic waste and increasing profits.
Filter the tap water:
This is how we travel at La Aventura Project. We carry a Sawyer Mini inline water filter. This attaches to our “camelback” hydration bladder which I fill with tap water and let drain into our refillable water bottles. These filters will last for a long time, rated to filter more than 100,000 gallons of water in their life time. They filter down to 0.1 microns, removing 99.99999% of bacteria (such as cholera, e-coli, salmonella) and 99.9999% of protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium). It also weighs only 2 oz and retails around $25 USD, so you will save yourself loads of money on a trip abroad. We estimate saving more than $30 USD each month of traveling by carrying this filter and have NEVER gotten sick from drinking the filtered water. We have talked to other travelers who used the Sawyer Mini to filter muddy water straight out of the super polluted Mekong River in Laos, with no ill effects.
2. Say no to plastic straws: #stopsucking
The problem: Often when you order a soda or stop for a coconut along the side of the road, someone is going to offer you a straw. You’re first instinct might be “yeah, a straw sounds like a great idea!” Just remember that you will use the straw for minutes, but it will stay in the landfill (or the ocean) for the rest of your lifetime. In the United States alone, over 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded every day. This is enough to fill more than 120 school buses. If you multiply this number the world over, you discover an unimaginable amount of waste that could have been avoided entirely.
The solution: ether don’t use straws, or simply bring your own reusable straw. Many online retailers sell different alternatives, some being better than others.
Stainless steel straws:
A very popular alternative to plastic. Most steel is produced from recycled materials, as it is cheaper and more efficient that producing new steel. It takes very little energy to produce steel, and most of the by-products from production are able to be reused, from the extra heat turned into electricity, to the CO2 emitted used to carbonate soft drinks. Stainless steel straws are easy to clean and can last a lifetime.
Another great option. Bamboo is cheap and sustainable to produce. It grows without the use of herbicides and pesticides and produces 35% more oxygen that a similar farm of trees. Bamboo also grows rapidly, needing only 3-5 years to harvest, balances the carbon and oxygen in the atmosphere, and is great for preventing soil erosion. You also don’t need to replant bamboo after harvesting, as it regrows into a new tree from the roots. It’s being called the new hemp, as it is great for fabric production. Clothes made of bamboo have antibacterial properties, which they retain for up to 50 washings (great for napkins). Bamboo scraps can be used to make paper, jewelry, and table utensils. We really love these Bamboo Toothbrushes from Green Choice Lanka, Check out this article for more info about the sustainable uses of bamboo!
3. Bring your own bag:
Single use plastic bags one of the easiest things to avoid. Simply bring your own canvas tote bag on your trip; they weigh very little and are always useful. The hardest part is retraining your brain to remember to bring it. Don’t worry if you forget, we aren’t trying to be perfect, just better.
4. Carry your own takeaway container:
It’s easy to have a reusable container in your backpack or luggage. There are many different options available, but we like these metal containers with clasps so you don’t have to worry about the tops popping off!
5. Use bar soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent.
Many soap products contain micro beads, small plastic pieces which polish your skin. These also get washed down the drain and end up in the ocean. They look just like food to fish and are a terrible polluter of the ocean. Soaps and shampoos also generally come in a disposable plastic bottle. These problems can be eliminated by buying soaps in bar form from sustainable soap makers. In the states, Dr. Bronners makes amazing, all-natural bar soaps.
6. Buy local if possible:
Buying local products directly funds the people and not large corporations. Packaging and shipping produces huge amounts of plastic waste. It also takes tremendous amounts of fuel to transport products long distances. The worlds 16 biggest boats (used for shipping) produce more pollution than all the cars in the world.
7. Stay at eco-friendly hotels and hostels:
The world is full of amazing people running sustainable hostels, hotels, and resorts. Many travelers fear that staying at these places will break their budget, but we’ve found that the difference in price is not noticeable. Look for things like water refills, local products, and upcycled decor, as these are the signs that a place is doing it right. We’ve found that the places that care the most about the environment, usually care a little bit more about the people staying there as well. It can be hard to find out which places are good to stay at, in Sri Lanka you can check to see if they are Good Market approved. The Good Market will soon be worldwide, making it easier for travelers to choose sustainable places to spend our money.
8. Your money is powerful:
Remember that where you spend your money is the single greatest influence you have. Skip the companies that don’t care about the earth, ***cough Coca-Cola cough Nestle cough*** excuse me, and choose green alternatives which are better for your health and better for the planet.
Remember, we aren’t going for perfect…
But with a little effort, your habits will change before you know it. Others around you will notice your actions, and ask you how they can be more sustainable travelers. Don’t forget to encourage people nicely, as humans listen better when you’re polite. Save your nagging for the big polluting corporations, they love annoying environmentalists 😉
Going travelling? Here’s advice on efficient packing
When you’re packing a small bag for a long trip, it can feel like the hardest level on Tetris! You want to make sure you have everything you’ll need, but without over-packing and ending up having to pay, either in extra charges from the airline or in back pain!
It’s so easy to pack too much, too little, or in some cases, just things you’ll never end up wearing. Make sure you check the weather forecast so you know what sort of things you should be packing, and also consider your itinerary.
If you’re planning lots of hikes, make sure you have the correct equipment, but if you’re also planning a fancy dinner or two, you’ll need dressier clothes as well. Make a list and tick off as you go so you can be sure you’ve got everything you need.
Travel-sized versions of your toiletries will save a lot of space in your suitcase and will ensure you can take them in hand luggage. For those that can’t be bought in those sizes, you can invest in some reusable travel bottles and decant your larger bottles into them. Make sure you put them in zip-top bags to avoid the devastating shampoo explosion! You should also be able to buy things such as a mini hair dryer or flat iron if you need to take those along with you.
If space is tight you don’t want to be packing one full outfit (or more!) per day. Think about things that can be re-worn and styled differently. For example, you could layer things for a different look, or dress something up or down depending on the shoes and accessories. This is even better if you have washing facilities where you’re staying as you can make a few items last a lot longer.
Cover your gadgets!
Good travel insurance will cover your gadgets, so if you’re planning on taking your tablets, cameras or laptops with you, it’s a good idea to look into what cover you can get. A trip will cost you a whole lot more if you end up losing your expensive bits of technology on the first day!
It’s best to limit the number of gadgets you take with you; consider what tech can be utilised in different ways, such as using your phone as a camera. Make sure you wrap up anything fragile in your clothes when packing, too.
So these are just some of our top tips on how to pack efficiently! Whether you are backpacking around the world or just going on a business trip, you can apply these and make the most of your space. We’ve certainly found that it’s a skill we get better at each time we do it! If you’ve got any tips for packing, please leave them in the comments.
The south of Sri Lanka is a perfect tourism destination, especially if you like surfing and yoga. Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats are a great option, especially if you enjoy all-inclusive, no-worries travel. With many different surf and yoga retreat options, it can be hard to decide which retreat to book. Here is our guide comparing the 5 best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats!
Offering all-inclusive week-long surf and yoga retreats based in Weligama, these retreats are held at an amazing colonial villa in the jungle near the town. Included are four surf lessons, eight yoga practices, breathwork meditation sessions, two daily meals with private chefs, a cooking class, and charity give-back days. They also take you on a safari through Udawalawe National Park which is packed full of wild elephants and other beautiful creatures. A great value for seeing a lot without needing to plan anything. We also like how everyone starts and finishes the experience together, allowing you to make deep, lasting friendships.
Weeklong packages include six surf sessions, six yoga classes, one massage, and daily breakfast. A bonus is the friendly local owners and delicious Ahimsa Vegan Cafe (extra cost but worth it) located on the property. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, quietly nestled away from the main road. Other packages and longer stays are available on their website. Less all-inclusive but better for more independent travelers.
For a more luxury option, enjoy Soul & Surf’s new and modern rooms and beautiful swimming pool. Included in a one-week stay are three meals per day, seven yoga sessions, ten surf outings, two meditation sessions, a guided SUP adventure and more. Great if you want to spend your time relaxing in one place; the downside is that it’s a little off the main drag. Oh, and the swimming pool is a nice bonus.
Weeklong price: ~ $1,500 USD for a shared room – $2,500 for a luxury private room. Check their website for options and availability. Prices lower in off season (May-November).
Made for the more serious surfer crowd, Sunshine Stories retreats include many different types of training to take your surf to another level. Included in their packages are seven breakfasts, five lunches and dinners, ten yoga sessions, five surf lessons, a variety of surf classes and video feedback, a temple visit, and your own surf video.
Weeklong package price: $899 USD for a shared room in their villa.
Located in Ahangama, Camp Poe is a boutique oasis which offers luxury safari tents or bungalows for accommodation. They also have a swimming pool and honestly some of the best yoga teachers on the island. Their packages include seven breakfasts, five dinners, five surf lessons, surf theory, five yoga classes, and included tea and unlimited water.
Weeklong package price: from $699 USD for private tent. Cheaper shared tents also available. More action-packed deals are also available with twice the surfing, more yoga, and included photo & videos. Check their website for other price options.
All of the best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats include transport to the surf spots and surfboard rentals. Check their website for more exact itineraries and lists of optional add-ons. Keep in mind that the weather is best in the south of Sri Lanka between November and April, and prices are higher during this season. If you are looking for the best budget Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats, consider coming in the off season to save and enjoy less crowds.
Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be. Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around. Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.
Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island
The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours. The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park. It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world. You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture. Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes. First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat. Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives. You might get a seat, you might not. Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey. Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!
Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka. If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet. Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters. Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving! The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you. Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour. Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs). For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page. Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment. Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.
These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island. They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like. A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night. They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage. Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen! In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.
Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream). Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations. Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day. In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation. Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo. Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police. Watch out for police roadblocks in every town. We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us. The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.
Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget. A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating. If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival. If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals. Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo. Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.
Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:
Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo. Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country. Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka. There are several options to get you where you need to be:
Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit. This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station. This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price. However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo. They depart every 15 min or so when full. There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).
Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination. Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you. Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.
Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination. The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.
Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot. We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say. Just keep your cool and everything will be fine! What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!
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As soon as we arrived in Thailand we started noticing people’s traditional tattoos. After a few internet searches, we learned more about the “Sak Yant” as they are called– magic bamboo tattoos. Sak Yant are beautifully designed and come with a blessing, their goal to grant protection and to give strength to the bearer of the tattoo. The sacred tattoos are given by Buddhist monks, or ex-Monk tattoo masters called Ajarns. The Ajarns dedicated their lives to learning the ancient art, passing the traditions down to their apprentices.
Our Sak Yant Experience in Ayutthaya
After the initial research we put in, we were turned off by the whole “free tattoo in the temple thing” as from the accounts we first read the process seemed crowded and rushed, with questionable sterilization practices. We searched for a more personable experience, and that is when we found Where Sidewalks End Travel. WSE’s owner Ian has spent years traveling all over Asia looking for the best Ajarns masters of the art of Sak Yant. He now offers the most authentic Sak Yant experiences for travelers by providing a translator/guide and making sure participants really understand the purpose of the tattoos they are getting.
On the morning of our appointment, our guide, Coco, picked us up at our hostel and we took a taxi to Mo Chit Bus Terminal in Bangkok. From there we took a mini van for the 1.5 hour journey north to Ayutthaya. We chose to go to Ayutthaya because of the amazing things we had heard about Ajarn Wao, the sak yant master there, and his psychic abilities. He seemed like the best choice and we trusted him to use his mastery to help us decided on the right sak yant tattoos for us.
Once in the city, we stopped to buy marigold wreaths as an offering. After getting the flowers we jumped into a tuk tuk that would take us to the “samayant” the studio/temple where the ceremony would take place. After driving past the temples of the old Thai capital, we arrived and were welcomed upstairs into the sacred space.
The room was open with many windows. At the far end was a tiered altar containing many images of the Buddha, Ganesh (the elephant god and god of art), and other sacred figures. Incense burned in the corner and the master’s apprentices sat patiently at the side of the room. While we waited for Ajarn Wao, our guide Coco told us some guidelines to follow in order to be respectful. These included never pointing your feet towards the altar and walking with bent knees, aiming to never walk taller than the Ajarn.
When Ajarn Wao entered the room, we kneeled at the front and lit nine sticks of incense each, nine being the most lucky number in Thailand. We then presented our marigold wreaths which were hung on the altar. Carrie decided to go first, since she had more tattoo experience. Through our translator Coco, Carrie answered questions about her birth-date, along with a few details about some struggles she has had and her desire to be more mindful in her life. Ajurn Wao made a chart in his notebook, which he used to explain her future and recent past.
Carrie’s Sak Yant Experience:
Carrie’s tattoo was decided; she would receive a tiger to protect her and give her strength. The tiger would be depicted looking over its shoulder at her past, which was difficult but would make her stronger. In the future her enemies will become jealous of her strength and success, and will try to take it from her, the Ajarn said. But in the end she will overcome, emerging stronger than ever. Thus that tattoo was also a reminder to stay in the moment, to not worry about the future.
Ajarn Wao worked fast, but Carrie’s tattoo was large and it took nearly an hour. It was amazing the precision of his needle strikes. After he wiped the ink away, intricate patterns were revealed. As he went he was constantly uttering blessings, his mantras calming. After a few more blessings were added, the tattoo was finished.
But Ajarn Wao wasn’t done. He wanted to give Carrie a special additional oil sak yant tattoo, invisible but still powerful. Our guide said that this was very rare. Carrie agreed and soon a design formed on her upper back out of small bits of blood. The oil yant would fade over the next few days, but it’s lucky magic would remain.
Zach’s Sak Yant Experience:
As it was my turn the calmness left me and my palms became sweaty. I sat in silence with plans to share about some of my struggles, my idea that I was my own worst enemy. I knelt before the Ajarn and before I could speak a word, he said to me (translated through Coco) “You need to decrease your ego. Try to think before speaking.” This was shocking because ego was what I already knew to be a problem and exactly what I had planned to bring up.
He then figured out the meaning of my birthday. In the Chinese calendar, I am born in the year of the rabbit. However, Ajarn Wao based his predictions on the Thai calendar. Under these dates, I was born in the year of the snake, and on Saturday, the day of the snake. This double snake made me very powerful, but my biggest enemy was my ego. The Ajarn then asked me about what I wanted to share, and I exclaimed that everything had already been said. I felt as if Ajarn Wao could see into my soul, which was scary but also calming in a way, as understanding your weaknesses is the only way to truly overcome them.
My tattoo was to be a blessing, with an emphasis on a chicken. The chicken would distract the snakes (my ego) and help bring my consciousness away from my ego’s control. It would help me to listen and think more before speaking, allowing me to choose the right words at the right time. After a blessing I bent forward, away from the master who began inserting the inked stick into my back.
Traditionally given with sharpened bamboo, present day Ajurns use sharpened steel poles called “khem sak”. At first it was just a few pricks, but soon I could feel the sharpness grind against my spine. My knuckles turned white and sweat poured down my face. I was warned that the placement would be difficult, and I was given a mantra to repeat when it got rough. I noticed that the others present felt my anguish and my reaction was laughter which engulfed the room. Soon I was able to relax myself and I became numb.
I noticed the apprentices, who where holding me still, stand and the sak yant sacred tattooing was finished. Ajurn Wao splashed me with cool water and a flood of energy flooded by body. I felt a great power come over me, as if I was new. A smile spread over my face as gold leaf was rubbed into the blessed tattoo.
After we were both finished we thanked Ajurn Wao and presented our donations to him for his services. He told us that in our relationship we needed to stop trying to one-up each other, to listen more and let things go. He was spot on again! This man has real wisdom.
We chose this experience because of the reputability of WSE Travel. Other options include going to a temple where the tattoos are given in exchange for an offering. In these places you will wait in line and receive a tattoo for very cheap, but it may be rushed and you will miss the personal experience. While the needles at the temple are sterilized, they are dipped into the same ink from person to person. Theoretically this could spread diseases and even though our research never found any confirmed cases, we decided that it wasn’t for us.
This was hands down one for the greatest, most spiritual experiences of our traveling lives, and the lessons we learned have immeasurable value. WSE’s Sak Yant tattoo experiences are definitely not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for and this is a lifetime commitment. With their inside knowledge and their commitment to sustainability and making sure the sak yant tradition continues in Thailand, WSE was the obvious choice for us. They also offer experiences in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chiang Rai, and Sukhothai along with ink-less blessings in Bangkok. We’ll write an update on our tattoos and how they are affecting our lives soon! Do you think Ajarn Wao’s predictions will come true?
Would you get a sacred tattoo to help you on your life journey?
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Thailand is a land of respect and “non-confrontational culture” where losing your cool is frowned upon and everything revolves around keeping a smile on your face. This is a list of what NOT to do in Thailand! Follow it if if you want to keep those Thai Smiles on the local’s faces. Mistakes happen, but trying goes a long way in keeping the locals on your side!
What NOT To Do in Thailand – A Guide to Thai Smiles
1 – Disrespect The Royal Family:
The Thai Monarchy is all-powerful in Thailand. As a foreigner, you shouldn’t voice any opinions about the King unless they are very positive. You should always give the Royal family your utmost respect. This includes not staring at posters of the King, standing up in the theater when the pre-movie film about the King is played, and standing still at 8am and 6pm when the national anthem is played over every speaker in Thaialnd.
2 – Get Upset:
Getting visibly angry or annoyed is considered bad form in Thailand. Keeping that Thai smile on your face is the best way to get the most out of a bad situation. Thai culture is based on respect and it goes both ways. It isn’t always easy, especially when you come from a place like the United States where you get upset with people every day. Test it out the next time you are about to lose your cool; a little respect goes a long way.
3 – Leave Your Shoes On:
Going into someone’s house or business usually requires you to take off your shoes. Thai people (and most Asian countries) think that shoes are super gross. If you see shoes at the front door, leave yours there too. It’s handy to wear sandals everywhere, making the removal process a lot easier.
4 – Ride the Elephants:
Elephants belong in nature, not cooped up as vehicles for your enjoyment. Most of the elephants that are ridden were taken from their mothers as babies, broken of their animal spirit and destined to miserable lives in cages. DO NOT RIDE elephants, EVER. Also, many of the elephant “sanctuaries” are just zoos where the animals are treated very poorly for the enjoyment of uneducated tourists. There are several places in Thailand that have more ethical sanctuaries, however these are a small majority and in general you must question the reason that any elephant is not in the wild.
5 – Eat Shark Fin:
Many places in Bangkok, especially Chinatown, serve shark fin. When the sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and the rest of the fish is thrown back into the sea. This is a very wasteful and unethical practice. Sharks are one of the most important parts of the ocean ecosystem and when their population declines it reeks havoc on all aspects of sea life. World fish populations are in drastic decline throughout the world, reduced by more than 50% since 1970. Keeping the top predators alive and thriving is the best way to support healthy marine environments.
6 – Touch the Monks:
Monks should be treated with the utmost respect. Never should you touch a monk, and always give them space in a crowded situation. Most transportation systems have special seats for monks so they can avoid contact with others. This is especially important for women. A woman touching a monk can bring the monk great shame and hurt his standing among the other monks. Women should also never hand anything directly to a monk, but instaed hand it to a man first who then hands it to the monk. Your best bet is to giv them as much space as you can to avoid awkward situations.
7 – Dress Inappropriately in the Temple:
Temples throughout Thailand and Asia in general are places of modesty and should be treated with respect. Men and women should wear pants below the knees, while women should always cover their shoulders and chest. Ignoring these rules is extremely disrespectful and puts a bad face on tourists. Also, the images of the Buddha should never be used in appropriate ways. The Buddha should never be displayed in a bar, or put on your body in the form of a tattoo. If you have a Buddha tattoo and it is visible when entering Thailand, Thai customs agents can deny your entry into the country and permanently ban you from entering the Kingdom.
8 – Display Affection in Public:
Thai people are very modest in public and couples should avoid displaying affection on the streets. Holding hands is frowned upon, while kissing with tongue in public is illegal. Keep your hands to yourself and save the smooching for your hotel room.
9 – Shake Hands:
Shaking hands is a very western thing. Asians are very clean people and dislike spreading germs through touch. Opt instead for the classic Thai wai. Many Thai people will wai you and this should generally be returned. Do this by placing your hands like a prayer at your chest and bowing your head until your nose touches your finger tips. Don’t wai people of lower social status than you, as this is embarrassing to everyone around you. This includes waiters, service people, and anyone who is obviously younger than you. Don’t forget those Thai smiles with your wai!!!
10 – Point at People:
Pointing at things or especially people should is considered extremely rude in Thailand. This is especially true when pointing with your feet. Use your head to direct attention in a certain direction.
There are more things that could have been added to this list. For instance, it’s bad luck to whistle at night, don’t dress sloppy, and don’t push too hard for the best deal. The most important thing is to always keep those Thai smiles on your face and things will work out just fine!
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