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NEW TRAVEL BLOG

Filtering by Category: Asia

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!