Organic Farming in Chiang Mai with Live It Global

Live It Global-45

One of our days in Chiang Mai was spent helping our friend Julie check out organic farms for her new organization, Live It Global.  Organic farming in Chiang Mai is becoming more popular, thanks to several people who are pushing the community in that direction.  There are a lot of small villages around Chiang Mai that are mainly focused on agriculture, growing fruits and vegetables which they sell in the local markets.  It was a great experience to get out of the city and see how some country people live. Read more

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7 Types of Terrible Hostel Guests

Hostels are great places that laid back traveling people can enjoy.  They are some of the best places to meet new friends and share your favorite backpacking stories.  However, we’ve all met some types of people who just shouldn’t stay in hostels.  While there are more, these are our top seven types of terrible hostel guests.

terrible hostel guests

 

Top 7 Types of Terrible Hostel Guests:

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The King of Thailand’s Funeral | Thailand Mourns

The King of Thailand's Funeral

We unknowingly arrived in Bangkok, Thailand at a strange time.  Unbeknownst to us, it was the month of the King of Thailand’s funeral.  The much loved King Rama IX had passed away a year before and the entire month of October was proclaimed to be a month of mourning, leading up to the five-day-long funeral starting on the 25th.  For the past year the most socially appropriate color to wear was black, and October was the “month of black” where that’s all most people wore.  Many entertainment events had been canceled, the clubs and bars were supposed to close early, and all celebrations were postponed including the world famous Ko Phangan Full Moon Party.  Foreigners were still arriving in droves, disappointed at the lack of activities upon showing up.The King of Thailand's FuneralSo we spent the month at work.  Zach trying to find a job and Carrie helping out Yim Yam Hostel & Garden with marketing and events.  Things were slow, but it was nice to have time to implement the volunteer program and the daily activities.  We checked out a few temples and it was fun riding around on tuk tuks, motorized rickshaws that zip though traffic as the wind blows through your hair.  We used an app called Tuk Tuk Hop (Check out our post about it) which is kinda like Uber for tuk tuks but you get unlimited rides for the day.  The temples were very crowded and it was hot and humid so by afternoon we were completely exhausted.  The Grand Palace was closed to foreigners with thousands of Thai people waiting in line to pay their last respects to their King.  A giant Royal Crematorium had been built nearby, and was to be the site of much of the funeral proceedings.

The King of Thailand's Funeral
The Crematorium at night
The King of Thailand's Funeral
Lightning over the Thai Temples

All of the shops were selling colorful elephant pants (Carrie’s favorite) but we bought more black outfits.  We wanted to blend in and be respectful.  In Thai culture, respect is everything. From the warm smiles, to the wai (hands placed together at the heart), to the use of krup and ka (males and females respectively say these words at the end of every sentence to be polite) no confrontation is the key to success.  Every morning and evening the National Anthem of Thailand plays throughout the streets over invisible speakers and everyone hurrying to or from work stops and waits respectfully until the song finishes.  The Anthem also plays before movies in the cinema, so everyone stands, not wanting to be the one out of line.  The younger generations seemed to care a little less about the funeral but for the older Thai people, who had spent their entire lives under his reign, the King of Thailand’s funeral signified an enormous change.  For better or worse, change is always scary, and the apprehension was thick in the air.

The King of Thailand's Funeral
Mourners wait to pay their final respects to their King.

The farang (foreigners) were still coming, and were surprised when they arrived.  They wore their elephant pants and walked down the street drinking Chang beer.  They asked which club was best for late night, not understanding the midnight liquor cutoff.  Of course some places were still open late, but they payed steeply for this luxury whenever the local police force came through for their nightly kickbacks.  Many people showed up at Ko Phangan, ready to rage all night for the Full Moon Party and many holidays were ruined or relocated to Cambodia.  We tried to explain to our hostel guests about the local customs such as not staring at the King’s photos and never putting your foot on money if you drop it on the ground (because his face is on all the currency).  We suggested to travelers to wear black and at least try to be respectful.

The King of Thailand's FuneralThe King of Thailand’s Funeral took over the television for nearly a month.  First they played a documentary on repeat showcasing the King’s successes, then the entire five day funeral was broadcast all day on every station.  Besides the black clothes and decorations, the city of Bangkok was covered in marigold flowers, because the color yellow was the official color of the King’s birthday.  The marigolds filled up empty spaces like seas of yellow, contrasting with the masses of black.  Life would return to normal, but only after the King could be laid to rest. The funeral involved dancing, marching, orchestras, and dignitaries from across the world attended. All businesses closed, even 7 Eleven which never closes, for the day of the cremation. Restaurants gave away free food to passers by and all the Thai people came together in a show of community that was extremely humbling.

The King of Thailand's Funeral
Yellow flowers fill the streets.

I remember a farmer in Chiang Mai who had invited us into his home to share some fruit.  After cutting the delicious passionfruit, he cleared us a spot on the table.  He moved his photo of the King to the other end, making sure it was straight and centered.  “We are sad our King is gone,” he said in Thai with a tear in his eye.  After the King of Thailand’s funeral it was socially appropriate to mourn for one more week.  Soon the clubs started to reopen, red dresses were pulled out of storage, and the giant billboard LCD screens changed from a picture of King Rama IX to 7-Eleven advertisements.  The shopping malls changed to upbeat music, and the Kings symphony, which had played on the metro and restarted at every stop, was also replaced with advertising.  The general mood of depression started to subside and laughter crept back into the streets.   The King of Thailand’s funeral was a long and tedious process, but we were glad to have witnessed it.  We saw real sadness in the people, and it really changed my opinion of the King.  He accomplished great things in his reign and the programs he started were well liked by many.  Thailand will miss King Rama, but life must go on.

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Like our article on the King of Thailand’s Funeral?  Check out more posts in our archives and don’t forget to follow our Instagram – @laaventuraproject for daily travel photos.

Backpacking Malaysia: Easy Asia Travel

Backpacking Malaysia is great for easy Asia travel.  Easier than South America, easier than Thailand.  We traveled the length of the Malaysian peninsula from Malacca to Penang, Kuala Lumpur (KL) to the Perhentian Islands through the Cameron Highlands.  The people are friendly, welcoming, and excited to have you in their country.  The buses are clean with organized stations and the roads are smooth with minimal traffic, especially in the countryside.  The highlight of backpacking Malaysia was the food.  From Malay to Chinese to Indian, the cuisine is an amazing fusion of different cultures, living together in relative harmony.  Low food costs are easy for every budget traveler and in Malaysia you can get a full meal starting at $1.50 for a vegetarian banana leaf lunch.  Even though the government just added a tourist tax to all hotel rooms, Malaysia still has good deals for travelers on a budget.  We stayed in some of the nicest and most fun hostels of our lives, and our 15 days in the peninsula didn’t scratch the surface of what the country has to offer.

Pick a Route:backpacking malaysia easy asia travel

Picking a backpacking route though Malaysia is easy.  For a two week trip we would recommend starting in Singapore and working your way north from Malacca to KL, Cameron Highlands, Perhentian Islands, then back across to Georgetown, Penang.  If you have three weeks we would suggest adding Taman Negara National Park and Langkawi Island.  These are both trips along the standard backpacker trail, great for your first time in Malaysia.  Since Malaysia has much fewer tourists than Thailand, you will run into the same friendly faces as you go.  There was one lady on our trip that we ran into in at three different places on our adventure.  Of course there are many other parts of Malaysia worth exploring, mainly the jungles of Borneo where things are more wild.  On a four week trip we would suggest spending a week there getting off the tourist path.

Enjoy the Food:

backpacking malaysia easy asia travel

The food in Malaysia is easy and good for any backpacker’s budget. The most we “cooked” for ourselves in Malaysia was to peel a banana, maybe once.  The local markets are great places to pig out economically.  Check out the laksa, poh piah, mee koring, and nasi kandar.  Western style restaurants are there, but they are the most expensive and generally not as exciting as the local flavors.  Every city has a Chinese neighborhood and an Indian neighborhood.  Little India was always our favorite spot to eat, great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike!  For one meal I had seven different curries and spent a total of less than $3. For these reasons, Malaysia was my all time favorite country to eat in!

Stay in a Hostel:

Frame Guesthouse backpacking malaysia easy asia travel
The Frame lobby — a minimalist hostel in an old framemaker’s shop. Frame is 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.

Backpackers will love Malaysia for the hostels which are cheap and easy to book online.  Sometimes they do fill up, especially in the busy season, so we suggest booking in advance.  They range in price and quality and there is a new 10 Ringgit tourist tax for every room.  Our favorites were the Lemongrass on Long Beach in the Perhentians, and Frame Guesthouse in Georgetown, Penang.  Prices range from $10 per night for a dorm bed, $15 for a beach bungalow, or $18 for private room with A/C.

Speak With the Locals:

Backpacking Malaysia is easier than other parts of Asia because most people can speak or at least understand English.  A majority of the signs are also in English and Malay, so you will never have a hard time finding your way around.  Malay also using the English characters so it’s easy to pick up a little bit along the way which always makes the locals appreciate you more.   Knowing few words like terima kasih (thank you) can get you a lot of respect points and make you look a little better than the average traveler.

 

When looking for easier Asia travel, backpacking Malaysia should be at the top of your list.  With top notch people, food, nature and adventure, and hostels, never ending aventuras await you in this tropical paradise!

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Like this post about backpacking Malaysia for easy Asia travel?  Check out our archives for never ending travel advice, reviews, and many stories of adventure in Malaysia!

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!

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!

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