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NEW TRAVEL BLOG

Filtering by Category: Travel Tips

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!

 

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.