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 →
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 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.
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!