Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

NEW TRAVEL BLOG

Treat Yo Self in Ao Nang

Karli Jaenike

 The beach in Ao Nang

The beach in Ao Nang

I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that I was going to spoil myself rotten. I actually had no idea what I was going to do. I am alone in Ao Nang and haven’t made any friends at my hostel yet. I rented a bike a couple days ago (a bicycle, not a motorbike which is apparently fairly uncommon here) to help me get around a bit faster in the daytime heat. I had been craving a northern Thai dish that I had eaten several times in Chiang Mai for a couple days now, so that became my first mission – find some Khao Soi within biking distance.

1.     Eat a Northern Treat in Southern Thailand. I asked the Great Oracle (Google) if there were any nearby restaurants that served Khao Soy, and low and behold a Thai food miracle happened. There was a restaurant called Khaow Soy, and it was located a mere 3 miles away! I was a little sketched out since the name was spelled differently than I’m used to, but after reading some glowing reviews I decided to take a chance.

Off I went on my bike, uphill and over the (v dangerous) highway, carrying my extremely heavy and awkward day-bag and sweating profusely. I’m not going to lie, I was annoyed.  I showed up 15 minutes later, face beet red, ready for some delicious Khao Soy. They must have it all ready to go in the back, because before I even got settled in the waiter brought out a steaming bowl of the delicious goodness.

I’ve had Khao Soy with breast meat usually, and this one had a huge chicken leg sticking out of it. A little freaked out, and expecting a lot of work, I began to take the meat off the bone. It slid right off – literally, no work required. Also, it tasted BETTER than anything I had gotten in Chiang Mai. This was the most legit Khao Soy I had ever had in my life. This is when I knew it was going to be a great day.

 Delicious Khao Soy at Khow Soy

Delicious Khao Soy at Khow Soy

2.     Get a Massage… or Two. So after that delicious culinary adventure, I packed up my stuff and began the sweaty and a bit dangerous trek back to the main beach in Ao Nang. Not quite sure what to do, I noticed my back was hurting something fierce. I decided to get a massage at one of the first places I saw (that offered air conditioning). This was one of those dime-a-dozen massage places you’ll find in touristy areas of Thailand. I talked the lady down to 200 baht (about $5.50) for an hour massage, and she leads me to a mat behind some curtains in a small shop. The massage was OK – relaxing, but afterward my back hurt WORSE (if that’s even possible).

So I wandered down the beach a bit more and remembered this lady I had met a couple days ago toward the left-hand side of the beach near the Last Fisherman Restaurant (name of place?) She stood out because instead of calling out to me in that annoying, slimy Thai salesman fashion, she had come up to me, asked my name, struck up and conversation and told me that if I ever needed a massage, she was the owner and pointed out her bungalow. I found her, told her that my neck/back was hurting and she set me up with a gentleman that gave me a “medical” massage. Note to self, if you actually want them to dig in and massage your muscles, ask for a medical massage. Anyway – it was bomb, and I left there feeling like a million bucks. Highly recommend. I could actually tell this guy knew what he was doing – you know it’s a good one when it hurts a little. Same price as the other one. So in the end, I paid about $10 USD for two, one-hour massages. Extravagant!

3.     Go ahead… have a brownie. So on the way back I was thinking, you know what? I’ve already been living pretty well today, let’s just make this a full on ‘treat yo self’ day. You know what? Fuck it. I want a brownie. So I hopped into this little coffee shop and ordered a brownie (I forgot its name... it is inside a large resort right on the water). “80 baht please,” said the lady behind the counter. Damn, that was an expensive, small brownie. That's only $2.26 USD, but considering that an hour massage is 200 baht, and a night's stay in a hostel is 300 – 400 baht, that’s an expensive brownie. It was alright, I guess, but unless you want Thailand’s most expensive (small, hard) brownie, I would avoid this place. I had to step up my game…

 So, I didn't take a picture of the actual sunset, but this was right before, waiting on the beach!

So, I didn't take a picture of the actual sunset, but this was right before, waiting on the beach!

4.     Watch the sunset on Ao Nang beach. By now it was about 2 hours until sunset, so I laid out my sarong to catch a couple rays while I could. Ao Nang beach is a bit touristy and dirty, but it's still nice. People reviewing the beach seemed to be bothered by the long-tail boats coming into shore, picking people up and then heading out again – I like them! They are interesting to look at, and as an added bonus I get to watch families of tourists clamor out of the boats into the surf, hoisting their belongings above their head and sometimes falling. Awesome.

As the sun began to set, I couldn’t help but think about how incredibly blessed I am to be here right now. Thailand is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been. It’s beautiful, fairly easy to navigate, and cheap! I had my little moment before realizing I was hungry…

5.     Eat legit Italian food… in Thailand. I walked up and down the main drag in Ao Nang, and couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. There was a Mexican food place that had offered me a free drink with my meal, but after looking at their menu I could see why – probably the most expensive place I’d seen. For Mexican food. No way, Jose.

I finally stumbled upon this place called the Spaghetti House about a quarter mile from the beach on the right-hand side (if you’re looking at the beach). “No Thai Food Here” was written on a sign next to the door. Now, in Thailand, basically every restaurant serves Thai food. They serve their specialty (Pizza, Mexican, Chinese, American) but ALSO, always Thai. This tells me that Thais are in the kitchen cooking everything (which isn't ideal if you're craving anything other than Thai), but here that wasn’t the case. I gave it a try and I’m so glad I did. This is the first LEGIT Italian food I have eaten in Thailand thus far. I ordered Pollo al Penne in a white creamy sauce, served with parmesan cheese and bread. Boy, was it good. Other menu items included pasta dishes, pizza, and appetizers, I highly recommend it if you’re a little sick of Thai food. It definitely wasn’t on my diet, but whatever… treat yo self!

 My working setup at Glur Hostel. The perfect place to relax!

My working setup at Glur Hostel. The perfect place to relax!

 

6.     Have a nice cold shower in one of Thailand’s nicest hostels. I have to mention the hostel I’m staying at somewhere in this article because it’s absolutely beautiful. Called the Glur Hostel, it’s a bit up the hill and off of the main drag. Don’t let this deter you. The hostel is modern and stylish, with gardens throughout and a lovely (clean pool) right in the middle. They offer privates and dorms, and I stayed in a dorm. They’re a bit pricier than most dorm situations (600 baht a night, or $17 bucks), but it’s worth it.

Each bed has their own little pod area complete with large locker closet (enough room for two backpacks, and whatever else you need), small open closet with hangers, a little room at your feet to sit and do your makeup or place extra stuff, and a large twin, comfortable bed. All of this is closed in by a curtain and there are about eight per room, which is the only thing that makes this a dorm, it feels almost like your own little hotel room! I sleep like a baby there every night and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is wary about sleeping in a dorm-style situation, or ladies traveling alone.

7.     Legit brunch. So this is technically the next morning, but as I write this, I’m sitting at the loveliest little café eating my favorite meal of EVER – brunch. The place is called 8 Café – and is located on Ao Nang's main drag, right in the middle of all the action. It’s air conditioned inside with great Wi-Fi. For brunch, I had actual generous portions of smoked salmon (they always skimp in Thailand) with their scrambled eggs and salmon dish. I also had pretty good coffee and yogurt with honey and fruit compote. All of this for around 300 baht (which is about 9 bucks American). This is a pretty expensive meal for Thailand, but once in a while, you have to treat yo’ self!

 

1,000 Ways to Die in Samet

Karli Jaenike

IMG_1537.jpg

Koh Samet, a relatively remote island off the coast of Thailand and about a two-hour drive from Bangkok, was my first taste of the Thai beach scene. While substantially quieter than it’s cousins in the south, Samet still has an emerging tourist scene of resorts, restaurants, and a nightclub. The island is beautiful, with the white sand beaches and crystal blue water you’d expect from a Thai island. 

From our private villa on the far side of the island, we could gaze at the ocean, lounge on our beach chairs or hanging swing, or sip coconuts on our patio. The rooms were divine, with massive sliding glass doors that opened up to our own section of beach. Inside the room was a huge, oversized, claw foot tub that we, unfortunately, couldn’t seem to get working. However, this was still one of the nicest places I stayed in Thailand. 

The food was superb, the atmosphere was better, and the drinks were strong. Although the accommodations were cush, I still left that island covered in bites, with bruises, cuts, and nicks, and an almost broken nose. How did this happen, you ask? Well, it turns out Samet is also pretty dangerous. Some of the things to exercise caution with include: 

 Thai hipsters painting by the ocean.

Thai hipsters painting by the ocean.

1.     Speedboats – There is no bridge leading out to Koh Samet, you get there by boat. Visitors can choose to arrive by ferry, but those take a couple of hours. The fastest way to get there (takes around 15 minutes) is by speedboat. 

No problem, you say. I’ve ridden speedboats in the past, you say. No, no, no. These speedboats are somehow more treacherous than your average pontoon. The Thai captains fit as many people (and their luggage) as they can safely fit on the boat, however, I wondered if they overloaded it. 

The scene from here on out looks like this: They crash through the choppy bay as water sprays anyone unlucky enough to be seated at the front. The small craft slams down, crashing over the waves and the turns make you wonder if the thing is going to topple over. This is how I die; you think to yourself right as the boat starts nearing the shore. You pull into the shore haphazardly and wonder if you’re going to crush anyone swimming nearby. Getting off the boat, you hoist your stuff over your head as you wade onto the beach. Safe! However, many speedboats crash ever year.

 Those damn sneaky rocks...

Those damn sneaky rocks...

2.     Rocks in water – The shoreline is dotted with black stones that stick out of the water and make for a great photo. However, some of these aren’t large enough to peak above the waves and remain hidden underneath the water. This doesn’t pose too much of a problem during the daytime, but at night, they can be quite treacherous. 

I was stupid enough to go swimming at night (with a friend) after a few drinks. After a nice swim, I decided it was time to head back to shore. Little did I know we had drifted over a few feet. As I absent-mindedly frolicked back to shore, I suddenly felt a pain in my right thigh. I was crashing up against a patch of rocks, and the waves were dragging me across them! “Rocks!” I screamed, as my friend helped me up and to safety. Thank goodness I wasn’t swimming alone, because as I had started panicking a bit. I left with three huge bruises and a gaping wound in my knee. Once I cleaned the blood off it wasn’t so bad, but I could see how it could have ended worse.

 Looks comfy to sleep on, right?

Looks comfy to sleep on, right?

3.     Sand fleas – The sand fleas we have in the United States can be bothersome – the sand flies in Thailand are downright demonic. They didn’t seem to bite much during the day, but after a few hours of sleeping on the beach, my legs were covered. Was I sleeping on the ground? No, I napped on a lounge chair about 4 inches off the ground. Still, they attacked with the fury of 1000 Mongolian warriors attacking (who did they attack?)

Luckily, I’m not allergic to them, one of my friends, however, was. His bites turned into huge welts that resembled mosquito bites. So much so, in fact, that we both worried about the possibility of dengue fever for the next few days. We eventually concluded that they were sand fleas, and a week later the bites are severely reduced. All the same, I won’t be sleeping on a beach chair again anytime soon.

 Squeee!

Squeee!

4.     Buckets – Buckets are basically what they sound like. Small water buckets filled with the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Made famous on the party islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, they apparently serve these babies throughout the country (even on the mainland). Notorious for being extra strong, one bucket will put you down. Naturally, I had two.

Now, buckets alone are unlikely to do too much damage (apart from alcohol poisoning), but your substantial lack of inhibitions after drinking one will. My biggest bucket-induced hiccup came in the form of a sliding glass door. One minute I was talking to my friends, getting ready to head inside, the next my face was smashed into said sliding glass door at full speed. My friends weren’t sure whether to laugh or help, but my nose was bleeding pretty profusely. I’m pretty sure I almost broke it, although it’s almost healed now. A week later it is only slightly tender to the touch. However, buckets = ouch.

 Worth the risk. 

Worth the risk. 

5.     Motorcycle accident – In Thailand, one of the most popular ways to get around is by motorbike. Locals will speed through the streets with great skill. However, many tourists aren’t as experienced. They say thousands of people die on motorbikes every year in Thailand; I now can see why.

This time, the accident didn’t happen to me (surprise, right?) It happened to two of the friends I was with. After hitching a ride home with someone on a bike (fitting three grown people, mind you), they were nearing the hotel. Whoops, they passed it. At this point, the motorbike driver flips a hard U-Turn and proceeds to turn the bike on its side. Friend One flies off and lands (safely) on the ground. Friend Two who was sandwiched in between the others is trapped under the bike. The smell of burning flesh fills the air as Friend One scrambles to pull the bike off of her. They left with a few scrapes and a large burn, but I figure they were lucky ones. Apparently they still gave the driver a bit of money for his trouble, too.

I joke about how treacherous the island is, it’s really quite safe. Just make sure you watch yourself, your drink, and your friends. Don’t get too smashed, and learn from a few of my mistakes! 

5 Must-See’s in Madrid

Karli Jaenike

  

My time in Madrid, Spain was short, so I didn't have a chance to explore too many hidden gems. I did, however, get to sample some of the more popular adventures Madrid has to offer. While they may be slightly touristy, these were my favorite highlights from my four-day trip to the city. I would recommend everyone visiting the city hit up these spots, as they represent so many facets of the experience.

Mercado de San Miguel One of my absolute favorite places in Madrid is a market we stumbled upon when exploring the Plaza Major. San Antone Market is a large building where different artisans and vendors can set up shop under one roof. Upon entry, you’re greeted by a large produce vendor, with all of the most delicious fresh fruits and veggies you could want. Next to that, a fish market selling sashimi grade, smoked, cured, and cooked fish atop crispy flatbreads for one euro each. This was probably my favorite stop, as three euros got me a satisfying sample platter. Visitors can also get wine, mixed drinks, sangria, bread, sweets, and all types of cured meats and cheeses. Basically, all that is good is housed under that roof, and every single thing I tried was delicious.

Toledo: About 30 minutes outside of Madrid sits Toledo, a medieval city that is still inhabited. The people of Toledo seem to embrace its middle age charm, hanging banners above the narrow streets, placing flowering plants in the windows, and keeping things looking as authentic as possible. It’s basically like walking into a time capsule; the buildings are very well preserved and restored. We’re told Toledo was a hub of religious activity back in the day, with Christians, Muslims, and Jews living together peacefully (for the most part). Visitors can tour a colossal, timeworn, beautiful cathedral, which is down the street from the Jewish quarter complete with synagogues and shops. Not far from that you’ll find a mosque, and all throughout there are quaint restaurants and shops. There are parts of town that seem a bit more of a tourist trap than I’d like, but if you focus on the authentic parts of town it really is amazing. Definitely worth checking out.

 Outside El Sobrino De Botin

Outside El Sobrino De Botin

El Sobrino De Botin: Established in 1725, Botin is one of the oldest restaurants in the world. Boasting patrons like Earnest Hemingway (who is said to have had his own table, in the corner of the restaurant on the top floor), and former employees like Goya (who is said to have spent some time as a dishwasher there), this place is a must-see. The traditional Spanish architecture, heavy wooden doors, and beautiful stained glass complement the eclectic menu. Items like roast suckling pig, black squid pasta (in its own ink), and bone-in chicken with almond sauce are all prepared in the back in large portions and served up tableside as it's ordered. Plan on spending more here than at more casual restaurants, as a visit to Botin is a fancy affair. It’s worth it to experience sitting and eating where so many others have, and the food is delish as well! Dad really enjoyed his suckling pig, but I wish I had ordered something a bit more adventurous than the almond chicken (although it was still good). Get a pitcher of sangria… it’s phenomenal.

Tablao Flamenco La Quimera: Housed in the newer area of Madrid is a lovely flamenco venue called Tablao Flamenco La Quimera. The restaurant is small, with a small stage in one corner. The house is packed nightly, and we made our reservations in advance (which was probably an excellent choice). Upon arriving, we were showed our table, which was right in front of the stage, although there wasn't a bad seat in the house. The flamenco troupe consisted of two male dancers, one female, a guitar player and a vocalist. All were amazing at their craft and showed real passion when playing or dancing. They didn't hold back at all and were dripping in sweat by the end of each performance (each was about 40 minutes long, with a small intermission, for about an hour and a half total). The food they brought out was plentiful and delicious. We had the tasting menu, which consisted of a green salad with seasonal fruits, a Spanish omelet, filet of salmon and mini toast with cream cheese, Iberian cured ham with bread and chicken paella. Bread and one drink were also included (although we ended up ordering more wine, which was not expensive). All in all, it was an enjoyable experience, and I would recommend it to anyone!

The Prado Museum: A trip to Madrid isn’t complete without visiting the famous Prado Museum. Within its walls sits one of the largest collections of masterpieces around, complete with paintings and sculptures from Raphael, Goya, El Greco (more). Admission is free from 6-8pm, but I would recommend allotting yourself more time if Renaissance and Middle Age art is important to you. We opted to go during the free hours and only made it about 1/3 of the way through the museum. It was still incredible and highly recommended.

No Se Nada: Madrid, Spain

Karli Jaenike

Arrival in Madrid, Spain after a 15-hour plane trip is a relief. I’ve never been so far from home, and I realize that jet lag is real. The cab ride to our inner city apartment rental allowed me to see much of the landscape surrounding Madrid, which I hadn’t expected to be so dry. Dry, arid, and lacking a significant amount of greenery. I realize that Madrid isn’t near the coast, and the temperatures are about as hot as they are in Texas, so this makes sense to me. We’ll be traveling to Barcelona in a few days, and I look forward to a more tropical environment. Entering the city, Madrid feels ancient. Some of the buildings have been there since the 1500’s, and many are renovated rather than torn down and rebuilt. The streets are paved with cobblestone, which gives even the most modern areas of town a rustic, medieval feeling. Our apartment is located near the Plaza Mayor, which is also near the Plaza Del Sol, which appears to be the main center of town. Our cab driver told us that each street in Madrid stems outwards from a center plaza and are all one ways that don’t cross. This is confusing to me, but our cab driver seemed confused by the concept of cross streets. The neighborhoods are mixed, new and old, diverse ethnicities, with well-kept areas within blocks of run-down apartments. I had hoped to venture out by myself at night or go for an early morning run alone. It doesn’t look like we’re in the safest neighborhood for that, so I think I’ll hold off until the next stop on our journey.

  Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Plaza Mayor in Madrid

Our first day we explored the town, and our first Spanish meal was at the oldest working restaurant in the world, El Botin. We were told that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent the place and that Goya spent some time as a dishwasher there. The restaurant was beautiful, ancient (Est. 1725), and displayed original Spanish architecture and stained glass windows. The menu was comprised of traditional Spanish dishes, rather than tapas, and we each got a full meal. I recommend the roast suckling pig, as my Dad really enjoyed it, and the chicken dish I ordered was underwhelming. The place was rather fancy, and the prices reflected the atmosphere. All in all, I don’t think I’d eat there again, but it’s worth checking out for the history.

Further exploration took us to Plaza Mayor for coffee where we had a good time people watching. Highlights included a fat man in a Spider-Man costume (dubbed Spider Clause) and the creepy yet beautiful paintings on the side of the Plaza Mayor Apartments. Outside the Plaza was my personal favorite part of the day, Mercado de San Miguel. This market was chock full of all that is good. Cured meats hung from the ceiling of a shop selling fresh prosciutto, across from a vendor selling fresh fruit. Next to that was my absolute favorite vendor who sold individual fish tapas for one Euro each. Sashimi salmon with dill sauce atop toasted flatbread was my favorite, but I also had cod with caviar and seared calamari toppings. Other shops had all manner of fried foods, fresh fish, cured fish, cured meats, sweets, ice cream, mixed drinks, and all of them looked delicious.

  San Miguel Market

San Miguel Market

Day two’s expedition was a day trip to Toledo, a medieval city about a 30-minute train ride from Madrid. The great thing about Toledo is that the majority of its inhabitants live amongst the original architecture from the Middle Ages. The city is on a hilltop, with a bridge leading into its fortress-like walls. Apparently Toledo was a hub for religious activity back in the day, with Christians, Jews, and Muslims living together peacefully (a rare occurrence, especially back then). The Catholic cathedral was probably the most beautiful structure, although I opted to visit an ‘Inventions of Leonardo Di Vinci’ exhibit and tour a torture chamber in lieu of seeing the inside. We visited the Jewish quarters, visiting a synagogue and passing a Franciscan monastery. The monastery was placed arrogantly within the Jewish barrio and displayed the chains of the Catholic martyrs that were freed from Grenada. We wanted to check out the mosque but chose to have tapas and wine at a little restaurant instead before hopping a train back to Madrid.

  Cathedral in Toledo, Spain

Cathedral in Toledo, Spain

The third, and last, day in Madrid was spent shopping downtown and doing the typical tourist thing. We got to visit the Prado, which is one of the largest collections of masterpieces in the world. Raphael, Goya, El Greco, and countless other Spanish works were displayed, as well as tons of Greek statues and sculptures. It really was a privilege to get to see such famous works, although, we opted to take advantage of the free hours (only from 6 to 8), so we didn’t have time to see everything. If planning to visit the Prado and medieval and Renaissance art is of high priority, I would recommend paying the fee to allow more time to explore. It’s wasn’t a high priority for me. It was, however, liberating to compare those artists idea of beauty to today’s waif-worshiping beauty standards. Almost every woman was depicted as plump, fertile, and soft. I knew this was the case already, but something about standing amongst them and seeing them for myself was an excellent reminder that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Madrid is the flamenco capital of the world, so naturally we had to catch a flamenco show. I chose Tablao Flamenco La Quimera because I heard that they placed a significant focus on the music, rather than just the dancers. The tiny club was definitely a good choice. The troupe consisted of two male dancers and one female, accompanied by a vocalist and guitar player. Honestly, the singer impressed me most, with an almost Moroccan sounding voice as he belted the tribal tunes. The dancer worked up an impressive sweat as they stomped the floor, a violent tap dance of sorts, as the guitarist strummed along. Each member was so incredibly passionate about their art, inspiring the crowd as true performers. The package we ordered was about 30 euro each and included a glass of wine and tapas. Our seats were right up front in the packed room, and the décor had a decidedly gypsy flair, which I loved. I hadn’t eaten much that day, so I was a little worried the pre-determined tapas menu wouldn’t satisfy my hunger. I was so, so wrong. After filling our wine glasses with a tasty red, the waiter brought out a salad with strawberries, tomatoes, and the one of the best cheese I’ve ever had in my life (not sure what it was, creamier and milder than feta, but feta-like) and a large Spanish omelet. Thinking that was it, we chowed down. 15 minutes later they brought out a generous portion of delicious smoked salmon and giant crackers. After that, they brought thinly sliced ham with mini baguettes and finally a large bowl of paella. By the end of the hour-and-a-half long performance, we were stuffed, and there hadn’t been a disappointing dish in the bunch. I highly recommend Tablao Flamenco La Quimera for a flamenco performance; it really was an authentic experience.

  Flamenco at Tablao Flamenco La Quimera

Flamenco at Tablao Flamenco La Quimera

Now, after hopping an early morning train to Barcelona, I’m taking in views of the Spanish countryside and reflecting on the last few days. I’m reluctantly learning to eat like a Spaniard, which involves very little breakfast, a larger lunch at around two or three, and a small dinner or tapas around 9 or 10 at night. I’m a huge breakfast/brunch person, so it’s taking some adjusting (although the food is delicious). Another observation in the use of space in Europe (from the apartments to the streets, to the restaurants). Everything seems so small! I realize how extravagant Americans ideas of ordinary living really are in comparison with those abroad. Europeans don’t appear to be bothered by tight quarters, which makes me feel a bit spoiled and wasteful. Perhaps this is just because we were in a large city, and I’m accustomed to the abundance of space in Texas. While I was navigating my way through the streets, struggling with the language barrier, and finding myself generally lost most of the time, I thought it best to learn the phrase "No se nada", I know nothing. I used it often.