Monday, March 16, 2015


Gorgeous view of the mountains in Pai
The resident tortoises at the Thavorn Resort in Karon Beach
No, I'm not lying in a ditch somewhere in Thailand, I'm alive and well! The idea of blogging after such a long silent spell has just seemed daunting, but I've come to terms with's time. What's that saying? You pooped your bed and now you have to lie in it? Something like that.

HAHAHA at this sign-off on the last blog, whoops! "I promise to cover all of these in my next blog, which shouldn't take as long to get up since I'm done with trips for a while and back to real life." Yeah right Sarah, ya big liar. 

Anywho, rather than try to recall all the events of the past 3 months, I'll touch on some highlights and then we can just move on from there, deal?

Random sunset photo from Surin Beach
When we last left off I was fresh off a full moon party and a weekend in Krabi,  which was quite some time ago. Here's a short list of a few things that I've done since:
• Christmas visit with the family
• New year's in northern Thailand (Chiang Mai and Pai)
• Bungee jumping in Kathu
• Phi Phi island
• Krabi round 2
• Coral Island
• 2 school trips
•  Lots of new Phuket beaches!
• Jungle trekking in Khao Sok National Park

James Bond Island
So rewind about 3 months and we've got the Schneiland Christmas vacation (see what I did there?). That's right, the whole clan made the not-so-short trip to SE Asia. Although I still had to be at school for several of the days during this visit, I was able to hang out with them quite a bit. The Schneiders, minus Sarah, stayed at a really nice resort in Karon Beach called Thavorn Palm Beach Resort. It was about a 20-30 minute ride away on my motorbike, so I was able to see them after work and stayed for that weekend. Our most fun-filled, adventurous day was Saturday—to say it was jam-packed would be an understatement., stay tuned.

Botttom: Taowee and dad bonding over his
Marine Corps jacket
Top: Kayaking through the caves
On Friday, the fam came to Phuket Town to see my condo and my school and grab some lunch. When the hotel van dropped them off at the wrong condo, we called upon my good friend and taxi driver, Taowee, to help shuttle everyone to the correct location. I met Taowee one of our first weekends in Phuket when he drove myself and a friend to Nai Harn Beach. Taowee is a  Renaissance man, he not only drives taxis, but he also arranges day trips. Our family had been wanting to arrange something, and Taowee was more than willing to help us out. Before we knew it, Taowee had set us up with a trip to Pang Nga, where we would go to James Bond Island, go kayaking amongst the sea rocks, eat lunch at a floating fishing village, go elephant trekking, ox cart-riding, rubber tree tapping, get fish pedicures and go to a fruit one day. I know what you're thinking, there's no way you can get all of that done in one trip. That's what we said! In fact, we had quite the comical vision playing out in our minds, where we would jump off the back of a moving elephant into an ox cart, which would take 3 steps through a fruit garden and we'd be whisked off into a kayak, etc. Amazingly, we fit everything in. The day was fun-filled but exhausting. The kayaking was probably one of the best parts of the day. We would lay down on our backs in the kayaks and barely squeeze under some stalactites only to enter a sort of open water cave.

A beautiful display of Chinese lanterns we stumbled upon in Chiang Mai
View from our hostel in Pai
A shot from the back of the pickup driving
through the mountains
Before we knew it, the family vacay had come to a close. Coincidentally, my family was leaving the same day I was leaving for Chiang Mai to meet up with some friends for New Year's. I actually got to see them in the airport before we both left, just happened to be walking by! The plan for New Year's was to fly up to Chiang Mai for a night, then head further north to Pai for a few days, and briefly back to Chiang Mai before returning to Phuket. We met up with a bunch of girls we'd met during orientation—the same crew that we  met up with for the Full Moon Party. We had an early bus the morning after our late arrival in Chiang Mai, so we didn't do anything too crazy that evening. The drive to Chiang Mai is famous for its curves (just like me....juuuuuust kidding!), 762 curves to be exact! The mountainous drive was a bit intense, but the views were beautiful. Pai itself is amazing. The mountain views are gorgeous, the food is delicious and the people are really nice. Perhaps one of the best days in Pai was when we set up a little travel excursion with a man named Chai. Chai has packages of trips that he sells that go to several places in Pai. We, however, only wanted to go to three: the lookout, the canyon and the waterfall. Chai made some arrangements
Chilling in Pai Canyon
and he was to pick us up early the next morning. Sure enough, he showed up with his pickup truck. We piled in the back (safe, right?)  and we were on our way. The waterfall was nice, not Niagra or anything but pretty cool. After the waterfall we went to the viewpoint, it had an amazing view of the mountains *please see photo. Finally, we headed to the canyon to do a little hiking and watch the sunset. I wasn't sure what I was expecting with the canyon, but this thing was crazy! Steep drop offs, narrow, 1-foot winding pathways, vertical rock climbs—honestly a safety hazard that would never exist in America without sizable guardrails...but mai pen rai! The sunset at the canyon was gorgeous—definitely somewhere I would go again before I leave Thailand. However, one of the best views of the day was from the back of that pickup truck. Driving through the winding mountain roads, there were some amazing views. It didn't hurt having the mountain air whipping through your hair to add to the ambiance.

At the village party!
On our way back from the canyon, Chai asked if we would like to go to a party in his village. Apparently one of his friends had just bought a house and they were having a big, celebratory house-warming party. Chai also informed us that he had never brought any "farang" (foreigners) to his village before.  We had nowhere to be, so we thought, why not? The villagers were quite intrigued when Chai pulled up with 7 white girls. As soon as we sat down the beer started coming, followed by numerous plates of spicy noodle salad. One particular table of Thai men enjoyed visiting our table, asking for kisses on the cheek or poking us and running away. I was even asked to dance, and, not wanting to be rude, agreed! We took quite the turn on the "dance floor" in front of the karaoke stage. Did I mention this party had professional karaoke? Talk about a legit house-warming party!

Inside of the caves in Pai
The next day we tagged along on another trip with Chai. He was taking a couple to some caves, so we went along for the ride. The caves were a bit of a drive, and we didn't account for the cool temperatures in the mountains that evening, so the truck ride was slightly less pleasant. The caves were really neat though; we entered on bamboo rafts and then, once inside, disembarked to do some exploring. The caves have all of these steep, somewhat sketchy staircases built on the sides so you can climb up and explore some of the different areas. The cave guide was extra excited to show us the caves famous "boob". Yes, that's right, a stalactite that has formed to look like a woman's breast. It's their favorite feature to show. On the way home from the caves, we stopped to watch the sunset. We were actually so close to the Burma border that we were actually looking into the Burmese mountains.

Susnet at the Burma border

When it came time to leave Pai it was pretty rough...who wants to leave friends and great food?! Lyndsay, the other Phuket teacher, and myself still had two more nights in Chiang Mai. One of those nights we got to go to the famous Chiang Mai night market. This market is set up on the weekends and is HUGE. It covers streets and streets with art, food, music and performances, jewelry, clothes, basically anything you could want. We did some damage that night, and I think our wallets were happy we were returning home the next day.

Ok, this is getting lengthy. I will have to touch on some of the other highlights from recent months in my next post. I'll leave you with some bungee jumping photos; we did this on a whim, deciding the night before. The jumps was 50 meters, which really wasn't as high as I was expecting (although mom, you would still hate it). This bungee jumping place is in Kathu, a town not far from Phuket Town, which also boasts a nice little waterfall that we visited. You jump off the platform over a lake, with an optional "dip" at the bottom...I didn't opt for that. It was a fun time!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

3 Weeks in a Nutshell

Amazing sunset in Ko Phan Ngan

I'm going to bypass the apologies for my lack of bloggging lately and just jump right in; hope that's ok.

Don't worry, we shared

So, as promised in my last post I will begin with filling you in on the details (or lack thereof) of the Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan. I'll be honest and say that the trip there was grueling. It consisted of 12 hours of vans, buses, ferries and tuk tuks. When we FINALLY arrived at Haad Rin Beach (the beach where our hostel was and where the Full Moon Party takes place) it still took us a good 30 minutes of walking around before we could find our hostel. Imagine our relief when we could finally drop our backpacks and relax. We met up with several girls that we got to know during orientation in Bangkok the first week. Most of them are teaching in Northern Thailand or near Bangkok so we haven't gotten to see them since, so it was great to all get together again. Full Moon was on Saturday, but we got there on Friday. The night before Full Moon they always have a "Jungle Party". It is exactly as it sounds...a party in a jungle. I'm talking real
jungle - like you have to walk a good 200 meters through some trees and brush to get to it. This party was crazy, there was a huge stage/DJ setup, bars, a muay thai fighting ring, body paint stations, the works. Myself and a few others went back to our hostel around 3 am and the party was still going strong - I couldn't imagine what the ACTUAL Full Moon would be like after witnessing the "pre party".

The next day, after a failed beach adventure, we stumbled upon a bar (purely by accident) with an amazing view and a pool. What more could you ask for? We spent the majority of Saturday lounging around the bar pool deck and taking in the sights (please see amazing sunset photo for reference). Prepping for Full Moon was quite the ordeal. Obviously we had to purchase neon's just a thing. In addition to the neon, we had to adorn ourselves with neon body paint, obviously. Our hostel provided the paint, so we spent a good amount of time being "artsy" while sipping on buckets prior to going to the actual party. When I say buckets, I literally mean buckets. The majority of beverages sold at the Full Moon party are served in a bucket, I wish I could tell you why. Next, it was off the official beach party! To be brief, the craziness that ensued included dance stages, DJs, fire dancers, and general craziness on the beach. It was basically a big rave/party. The night ended at about 7 am for me, so I got a solid 3 hours of sleep before we had to get up and make the 12-hour journey home, woo! Travel is here is a ludicrous process. Basically you buy your travel voucher beforehand at a travel agency and you get a receipt. You show this receipt at the bus station and they slap a sticker on you. This sticker is usually colored and has the name of the place you're going on it. The rest of the trip you're herded around like cattle, and you have no choice but to listen to where you're told to go, because you honestly know no better. Our trip home started on a ferry, then we were shuffled onto a bus. At this point we had already lost half of our group in the travel craziness, we were down to 3. Once off the bus it was straight to a tuk tuk (a sort of open pickup truck). From here we were taken to a holding area of sorts (I think these lengthy waiting areas are just agreements with the business so the disheveled, hungover travelers will buy their food). After about an hour we were then put into 16 passenger vans. Another 2 hour van ride later we were dropped off at Tesco (essentially the Walmart of Thailand) where we had to take a taxi. FINALLY we made it back, around 11 pm or. Work the next day was not fun.

Amazing view from the bar we stumbled upon, whoops!
Banana Beach
Banana Beach
Wednesday after Full Moon was a holiday (Constitution day) so we had no school, woohoo! We decided to go to a little known beach about 30 minutes away called Banana Beach (named for its crescent-like shape) for a day trip. The beach was almost deserted, with about 20-30 people there total, most of which came on long tail boats via some sort of tour and left after an hour or so. To get to the beach we had to hike down a jungle hill - it's pretty hidden, hence the lack of people. The beach itself was beautiful. The water was clear blue and calm, and it backed up to the jungle, lined with palm trees. I'm pretty sure this is the beach that postcards are made of. After a long, hard day of relaxing, we went to meet some friends who had been at a nearby beach for a quick sunset viewing. We ended the day at an adorable restaurant on the way back to Phuket Town which actually had some quite delicious mac 'n cheese. Perfect ending to a perfect day!

Dinner on Rang Hill view
The next weekend was a chilled out one spent in town. We went out for a bit on Friday, but nothing crazy. Saturday Lyndsay (another teacher from my school) decided to take our bikes to go see Wat Chalong (a Buddhist temple just a little south of Phuket), however, as my luck would have it, my motorbike broke down before we even got out of Phuket Town. I ended up having to replace the ignition entirely. Luckily bike repairs are cheap here, and it cost less than $30. However, our plan was thrown off a bit by this time suck, so we just ended up going to Rang Hill. Rang Hill is, well, a hill in Phuket Town which is home to the 2nd biggest Buddha on the island (it used to be the biggest, until the BIG Buddha was built not too long ago). Rang Hill also has a nice lookout of the city and a restaurant that we grabbed some dinner at - it actually had an amazing view. Not the day we had in mind, but a good one nonetheless.

We had the following Wednesday off at school, again, so we decided to do another beach day trip. We went to Ya Nui, a small beach in the very south of Phuket. It was a little rocky, so not as good for swimming, but great for snorkeling! *Note to self to bring snorkeling gear next time*

Approaching Tonsai Bay, Krabi in our longtail boat
Fire dancer at a bar in Tonsai
At this point, midterms were fast approaching. We had one last weekend before the craziness of testing set in, so we decided we should spend it in Krabi. Krabi is actually part of the mainland, but you would think it's an island. It's surrounded by amazing cliffs and has some great beaches. There's also a big rock climbing scene there, so I'm bring my shoes next time for sure! We spent most of our time in Krabi at Tonsai Bay, a teenie little "town" where the electricity is turned off for the majority of the area from 5 pm - 7 am. Tonsai was the most chill, relaxing, not-a-care-in-the-world place. Upon being dropped off on shore by a long tail boat, we walked down the dirt road and found some bungalows in the jungle for pretty cheap - we'll take 'em! After securing our lodging, we suited up for the beach. Railay Beach is a main beach in Krabi and is right next to Tonsai. You have to hike through a jungle to get to it from Tonsai, but it's only about a 10 minute hike. We made the trek and spent the afternoon doing what we do best, lounging around. Some of the girls got foot massages - they will actually come straight to you on the beach, you don't even have to get up! After a long day of beachin', we headed back to our humble abodes, and when I say "humble", I mean a thatched hut with a sink that empties right onto the bathroom floor, whatever. We spent the evening at some of the local bars (there weren't many) watching fire dancers and sharing drinks with the locals. Everyone there is so nice, always saying hi and wanting to chat. We ended the night at Sunset bar, in a tree house with 3 Thai men, singing John Mayer and perfecting our own fire dancing skills. Success. The next morning we had breakfast and sadly made our way back to our island of Phuket, until next time Tonsai!

To make this brief I'm going to wrap up with a couple of funnies...

Student/Teacher converstaions with Ajarn Sarah:

Student: "Ajarn, do you have freckles ALL OVER your WHOLE body?'
Aj. Sarah: "Err yeah, most of your worksheet."

Student: "Ajarn, do you have any kids?"
Aj. Sarah: "No, do I look like I'd have kids?"
Student: "Yeah"
Aj. Sarah: "...Great"

Student: "Ajarn, you have so many freckles, do you have melanoma?"
Aj. Sarah: "I hope not!"

Random, unrelated photo of a monkey in the
parking lot at Rang Hill
As you can see my student never cease to entertain with their comments and questions.

Another recent occurrence that had me stifling my laughter was in a bookshop in town. I was just looking around, perusing if you will, when I hear a Shania Twain song coming from the Christmas display. When I investigate further I discover it a singing Santa figure, shaking his hips to none other than Shania Twain's "Gonna Getcha Good" - "Don't want ya for a weekend, don't want ya for a night, I'm only interested if I can have you for life." These lyrics sound a little creepy coming from a Santa, and I'm not sure what the marketing team was thinking, but I actually almost bought it due to its pure absurdity. Oh Thailand, you've done it again.

As I conclude this post, I have to admit that I'm leaving out my family's Christmas visit and my own trip to northern Thailand for New Year's, along with our recent school trip to the south of Thailand. I promise to cover all of these in my next blog, which shouldn't take as long to get up since I'm done with trips for a while and back to real life.

I'll leave you with the link to this music video filmed entirely in Thailand :)