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 →
Depending on where you stay in Bangkok, you might have some locals suggest you grab some “Thai boat noodles.” The best boat noodles are located near Victory Monument, right off the BTS Skytrain. Thai boat noodles are generally served in small bowls and the object is to eat a lot. Most shops serve upwards of seven different types of noodles and if you manage to eat ten bowls they will give you a free liter of cola.
There are a series of canals that run through Bangkok. Traveling by boat through these canals used to be the easiest way to get around the city. There were many floating markets along these canals where the vendors sold products from their boats. Several of these markets still remain in the city but are mostly just there for tourists to take pictures. However, these are where the “”boat noodles” originated and, although they are no longer served off of boats, the shops that sell them are still located by the canals. Read more →
The Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls rest in the hills a little over an hour’s drive outside of Chiang Mai. This was our first motorbike adventure, and we were a little nervous about it. There were three of us so Carrie rode with our friend Julie (who is experienced), and I drove myself. I rented the motorbike for 180 baht from a place called Bamboo Rentals. The gas was empty when I picked it up so they directed me towards a gas station down the road. Luckily I had driven Julie’s bike around the lake the day before, so I survived my first leg on a read road without incident. Read more →
Chiang Mai has long been on our list of must dos. A hub for expats and digital nomads in Southeast Asia, we imagined it as a place we could settle down for awhile. After a few weeks of Bangkok, we needed to get out of the big city so we purchased a cheap flight to Thailand’s north. You can also take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but for a minimal amount more you can trade the 12 hour ride for a 1 hour flight. On arrival around midnight we took a cheap taxi pickup truck, called a songthaew to our hostel.
The hostel, to our dismay, had forgotten our booking, which we found out right as it started to downpour. Fortunately we found a private room right around the corner at Nomadic Guesthouse for only 200 baht per night and got ourselves some rest, ready to explore the town in the morning.
We instantly loved Chiang Mai. The vibe was so much more relaxed than our previous weeks in Bangkok, and the friendly people made us feel very welcome. Read more →
The Loy Krathong festival occurs in Thailand every year during November’s full moon. It was also a perfect time to take my first trip to one of the Bangkok’s most impressive temples! The Golden Mount, or Wat Saket, is Bangkok’s highest temple and sits at the top of 344 winding steps! Check out the video below which takes you all the way to the top! It was a spiritual experience to be on top at sunset watching the faithful make their offerings and say their prayers.
Below the temple at the Phranfa Bridge, I got to participate in the Loy Krathong festival. People release “krathong” offerings — little boats made from banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense — on the canals and lakes all over the country. The festival originated as a way to honor the river goddess, but it also has Buddhist meaning. “The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements.” (Wikipedia) Some people put their fingernail clippings or hair in the boats to “get rid of the bad parts” of themselves.
Thai people are incredibly welcoming to foreigners even when it comes to their holy ceremonies and everyone at the canal urged me to join in on the tradition. Not one to miss out, I bought my krathong, stuffed a little broken piece of a dreadlock in it, and prayed to release my anger and my doubt, two things I had been struggling with recently. I watched the krathong float away and felt peace. What an amazing evening!
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Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe in Ayutthaya, Thailand is a new and chic hostel in the old capital city. Located in a quiet neighborhood just outside the old city, Yimwhan offers everything a traveler needs to feel comfortable in a new place. Their cafe and common room are great places to enjoy a coffee, or you can rent bicycles from their friendly staff and quickly find yourself among the ancient temples. If biking is not your thing then they will call you a tuk tuk and have you at the temples in minutes.
Their private rooms feature large comfy beds on trendy pallet supports. We loved the antique style light bulbs and old 80s televisions used as tables. Each room also has a safe for your valuables.
Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe also has mixed dorm and female dorm rooms. The dorms are simple, clean, and well lit, a great value for the price.
The highlight of Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe for us was the free breakfast. Going way above and beyond the normal free hostel breakfast, Yimwhan served eggs, sausage, toast, cereals, milk, juice, and coffee.
Yimwhan’s common room is a great place to relax after a long day of biking around the temples of Ayutthaya. They have comfy beanbag chairs and movies to watch to wind down. Check out our video below for a virtual tour around the hostel!
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.So 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.
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 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 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.
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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