Sunday, April 22, 2012

Texas, USA

Now that I am officially back home in Texas, it's time to reflect upon my last 6 months of life.  I'll start with a list of all the things I did in the first 24 hours home that I had not done once in Thailand.

1.        Took a bath - A real bath. No more cold showers! 
2.         Put on a seat belt - Safety first! 
3.         Had a Dos XXs Beer and Cheese Enchiladas 
4.         Played with Tuesday (my cat) - oh how I missed that little fluffball! 
6.         Slept on a SOFT bed. 
7.         Had clean feet - seriously, it's been a while. 
8.         Done my own laundry  NOT in a bucket but real life washer and dryer! 
9.         Not felt the desire to take 5 showers a day - 1 will suffice as it is not 90 degrees with 100% humidity outside! 

I'm positive that there are many more to add to the list - but these are the major items.

My awesome cat I've been missing! 

Life has now gained a whole new perspective from my eyes. I have a "new found respect for life", as once said by Ross Gellar (any FRIENDS fans out there? Remember that time that Ross thought he almost died and said this?! No?! Well maybe I watched too many Friends episodes while I was in Vang Vieng, Laos). The point is - life is much different now.  It will take time to adjust. 

It’s strange being back to normality. Or at least what is deemed normal. For 6 months my normal life consisted of consistently being in 90 degree weather sweating my ass off, drinking gallons of water a day, not following any safety regulations, and eating suspicious food from people on the street.  I haven’t touched real cheese in an eternity. I haven’t had a washing machine or dryer for laundry.  I’ve had no need for more than one sheet to sleep under at night, if that. I haven’t had a fancy phone or computer (for 3 months).  I haven’t even had a cat to cuddle with at night. Yet now I find myself surrounded by luxuries.  I have hot water, a soft bed, regular size water bottles, air conditioning in every room, a fancy TV, and pets that don’t look like they may be carrying some disease! LUXURIES!

These luxuries come at a price however.  I also haven’t had to deal with things such as stress, unemployment, or responsibilities for that matter. Now I need to find a job, pay off my credit card, prepare for my best friend’s wedding, and think about what to do next.  It’s almost nicer to live without all these luxuries if it means having a stress free life.  Do I really need that soft bed and that air conditioner?  You don’t miss what you never had, so I guess for some people this is perfectly okay.  In fact, I think I was just about adjusted to it before I left.

Quite honestly, being back is like waking up from an amazing dream.  It’s sad that its over, yet you've got to move on.  I see this as a step forward to my next big adventure, rather than one step back to reality. Hopefully I can find something just as amazing to look forward to shortly. If anyone knows any openings - send them my way! I'm ready for the next big thing! 

For now, this is goodbye Thailand. It was nice to meet you, and one day we'll meet again. Until then - take care! 

Highlights of Thailand: 

Squatter Toilets! 


Hammocks by the beach 


Erawan Falls! 

Sunrise on top of Pu Chi Fah! 

Riding an Ostrich! 

Happy New Years! 

Classroom Olympics! 

Long Tail Boat at Koh Phi Phi!

The tallest peak in Thailand - Doi Inthanon! 

Siem Reap's Angkor WHAT?! 

Angkor Wat!

Cambodian Temple Siem Reap! 

Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang, Laos! 


Stacked rocks at temples! 

Santa at Wang Chan Wittaya! 

And so much more that you will just have to see via my facebook. :) 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


My final country is Laos.  I was only able to experience 2 cities in my week and a half here - but it was well worth it. 

Vang Vieng

When I first started to plan for Laos, I had struck this city from my list of things to do.  It's town filled with heathens, parties, drugs, and who knows what else.  But then I changed my mind.  Sounds like fun. 

The initial drive to Vang Vieng was brutal.  I was continuing my trip with my trusty travel buddy - Dave.  We bounced around the mini-bus for 4 hours.  It was rough. 

The main attraction here is the tubing.  When they say tubing, they don't mean the Texas tradition of bringing a cooler of beer down the river for the day - they mean, "Let's rent a tube and float for 30 seconds at a time in between bars that reel you in with a water bottle attached to a line!".  Both of these types of floating are approved by me.  However - due to the high rate of deaths on this river due to dangerous terrain, platforms, waterslides, alcohol, and drugs - we made a decision to attempt not to do anything stupid (not that all of us followed that rule). Overall the day was fun - but being awake while your body begins to sober up and the hangover initially kicks in is unpleasant. 

Also - I will not be eating pizza again for some time.  That's all I have to say about that. 

Sadly, by day 4 I had bought a bus ticket to Luang Prabang.  I only had 1 week left in Asia at this point and I needed to move on before I headed back to Bangkok and then America.  So without my travel buddy - I left Vang Vieng.  I hope he doesn't die back there. :)

Luang Prabang

The ride to Luang Prabang takes about 7 hours through mountainous terrain and roads that make you want to scream in terror for fear of falling off a cliff at high speeds.  Luckily - I made it to the end. 

Day 1 in the city I did nothing.  I began to wonder why I had left Vang Vieng.  In all honesty - I probably should have stayed just one more night.  But - no use having regret when you have to embrace your last few days away from the real world! Also - I almost forgot - It's SONGKRAN! Water fights all over town.  Soaked through 2 sets of clothes that are now continuing to dry in my room - awesome holiday.

Day 2 I took a van to the Kuang Si waterfall.  First you see the rescue Malaysian sun bears.  They're cute.  Then you walk up a jungle path to the many layers of the waterfall.  I went swimming at the top.  I may have been the only one in an actual swim suit and I felt like I may have been offending some people - but I was enjoying the cool water. 

By this point I had already found some new people to hang around so that night we went out and discovered the bars...they close at 11:30.  So we went bowling.  Apart from the incredibly rude and obnoxious French-Canadian girls who attempted to make fun of me for being from Texas (y'all sounded like fools trying to do the impressions fyi!), it was alright.  I got to bowl in a foreign country!

My final day in Luang Prabang has been nice.  Slept in - climb to the top of the mountain to a temple - bought some more artwork - and had a massage at the Laos Red Cross.  Now I think I will eat some noodle soup, read a book, nap, and then go to bed so I can wake up at 5:00am for a ride to the airport.  Can't wait!

3 more days til I'm home! Tomorrow - Bangkok!

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Siem Reap - Angkor Wat

After officially ending my short lived career as an English teacher in Thailand, I decided to first embark on a journey to Cambodia.  My first stop was Siem Reap with my friend Marci.  To get to Siem Reap you must get a bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet - get a Tuk Tuk to the border - walk across the border - get a bus to a bus station out of the city - and then get a two hour taxi to the city.  Not so difficult or frustrating at all. 

I spent my first night in Siem Reap partying with some fellow travelers.  Day two I was walking around ancient ruins at Angkor Wat incredibly hungover.  I do not advice this.  It hurts. It's hot.  And you don't appreciate the Wat to it's full extent.  Luckily the hangover began to sweat itself out and I was able to enjoy the last 3 ruins a little better.  

Also - checked out the Tomb Raider temple.  I have walked in Angelina Jolie's footsteps.  Sweet. 

Phnom Penh - Genocide Museum and Killing Fields

Next was the capital city of Phnom Penh.  I've officially become an ignorant tourist for the first time.  I went with no knowledge of the city - just following the crowd.  Turns out there's some pretty brutal history going on there. I was familiar with the Khmer Rouge reign - but let's face it - schools don't really touch on that subject very well back in the States. I spent a depressing yet knowledgeable day walking around the Genocide Museum that was once a prison and the Killing Fields where all the bodies were poorly disposed of.

Other than that, I just saw a lot of prostitutes and had a massage.

Sihanoukville - Beggars

Lastly in Cambodia, I traveled to a place called Sihanoukville.  Don't try to pronounce it.  I'm pretty certain that unless you are Cambodian or French - you will screw it up.  It's a beach city. So far it's a pretty disappointing beach after being in Thailand for so long.  From what I can tell there's a hundred times more beggars and children trying to get money from you.  It's unpleasant trying to have a nice meal on the beach and having crippled bums walk up to you or a swarm of children harassing you to buy a bracelet.  I had hoped maybe the nightlife would make up for this - drinks are amazingly lower in price when compared to Thailand.  However - they are still rather weak.

The highlight of this town was the hotel - a "resort" for $12.50 a night and a swimming pool that has no street bums or children to be seen.  I like it.

So that's Cambodia in a nutshell.  Next I will be getting on a plane to see Laos for approximately 1 week.  There I will tube the Vang Vieng River and visit Luang Prabang..  Let's hope it's a "Happy" experience.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Krabi - Koh Phi Phi - Phuket

I began my 3 week vacation in the city known as Krabi. It's a wonderfully beautiful place in southern Thailand surrounded by beaches and enormous vertical cliffs that appear from nowhere. It was here that I visited my friends Stacy and Carlyn, and met Sarah from PA and Ally from Ireland.

Day one I was left to my own devices until the ladies returned home from work. With time to kill I decided to rent a motorbike (seriously, what else did you think I would do?!) and drove for hours around the area. However, these few hours took a toll on my body...for in Krabi, there's this thing called sun. It doesn't always appear in the rest of Thailand, but in Krabi it's at full force. Soon I was redder than a lobster...seriously. After living in Thailand for 4 months at this point, I had never even so much as gotten slightly pink. When I saw sunscreen at the good ol' 7-11 I thought "350 baht! I don't need that". I was wrong. For days I staggered around owing at each move of the shoulders. My face - let's just not mention it. Alas, this did not prevent me from continuing to drive around Krabi for 3 more days in the hot burning sun of doom. Overall I found Krabi to be a pretty cool place. It was strange to find such a high Muslim population after being around nothing but Buddhist temples for months - but it was interesting non-the-less. I give Krabi a 7 out of 10.

Next I was ferry bound to Koh Phi Phi. From rumours I've gathered that this place is gorgeous - a must see - paradise even. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood to party - or this place was just more crazy than I am. First things first - I climbed up to the viewpoint to watch the sunset. Here to talked to a Thai man about coconuts. And then I met Nate the Canadian living in India. This will be more relevant later in my story.

That night I met some party individuals who were convinced that they could get me to join them. I did for a bit - and then retired when I realized I was not drunk enough for that scene and I was ill-equipt for the task of making myself as inebriated as they were. One guy was obsessed with my "Texas Accent" and demanded I only speak to him in Texan talk. It was kind of strange. I almost forgot the most important part! There was a giant penis statue on the beach. Yep. A giant penis statue. Eventually I departed as it has started to rain. On my walk back I once again ran into Canadian Nate who was headed to Phuket the next day with friends. I then decided I would join their group and make my way to Phuket the next day.

Over the years I've always thought of Phuket as a tropical paradise of an island. Maybe one day if I come back and go there with money this will be true. However, when the island is run by the mafia you tend to find high prices on every corner. If you want to go somewhere by taxi - minimum 500 baht. If you want to use the chair on the beach - 100 baht. If you want to walk on the cool floating pier that moves with the waves - well, I don't know, but I'm sure it's expensive. All I know is hat I was not allowed on it. Overall Phuket wasn't half-bad, mainly due to my awesome company of 3 Canadians. But sadly, it was time for me to complete week one of travelling and go to the place I truly loved - northern Thailand. After about an hour of attempting to wait for a bus that I am not convinced really exists - I got offered a ride by some beach security guards...and by offered I mean they still charged 200 baht to get me to the bus station. I felt this was safe-ish. They dumped me off on the side of the road by a shop that apparently sold bus tickets. I was told "Bangkok bus - right now". So naturally I waited an hour for the bus. I hopped on a bus from Phuket to Bangkok - 12 ish hours. I arrived in Bangkok at 5:30am. The next bus to Chiang Mai was at 6:00am. I had time to take a pee break and brush my teeth before the next bus took off. Approximately 24 hours in a's rough. (See next blog).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

And Then I Crashed....

By Liane Nichols

Pai. It's a beautifully unique town located in the northern province of Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The road to Pai involves a 3-4 hour open air bus ride through the mountainous region that separates it from Chiang Mai. It is a haven for hippies and health nuts wanting to escape the real world. Dreads are the popular form of hairstyle and comfortable fisherman pants are donned by both man and woman. The coffee, tea, and smoothies are endless, and a good price. Needless to say, for those wanting to escape corporate world, or just wish it was socially acceptable not to shower daily, this is paradise. 

One of my favorite features of the glorious small town is that motorbike rentals are a mere 100 baht. This means you can have your very own motorcycle or moped for just 3USD and use it as you please for 24 hours. The Thailand norm is 200 baht/ 24 hours. I was quickly falling in love with this place.

For two days I had been zooming through the hills. The steep roads, the sharp curves, and the viewpoints felt like pure bliss. I could ride around for hours on end just soaking it all in. I even remembered to bring my headphones to listen to Young the Giant, Mumford and Sons, and Ray Lamontagne. A perfect mix for the ride. It's difficult to not stop on every corner and snap a photo of the scenery you only thought existed in the famous National Geographic.

Day two of riding had a rocky start. My new Dutch friend Stephanie and I were exploring the area where you could see a Chinese village and a waterfall. However, just 20 minutes up the road my bike grew tired of me and retaliated with a flat tire. Luckily the true Thai hospitality you've only heard about helped me. We had stopped outside of a small home/side of the road store of fruits and drinks. There was a plethora of odd looking chickens scattered around the place. The man may not have spoken English or even known how to fix a tire, but by golly that was not going to stop him from helping. Eventually after about one hour and a quick trip back to town for a new tire, we were on our way to the waterfall. I even bought a delicious pineapple and watermelon from our friendly determined helper as a sign of my utmost appreciation.

Day three was when it happened. This day I was with my friend from Sweden and we had decided to drive from Pai to Mae Hong Son. The ride, as always, was absolutely gorgeous. There were a few fires that were frolicking at the side of the road, but for the most part the ride was pleasant. On the drive back to Pai, we passed a sign for three caves. With time to spare, we decided to take a peak down the back road. The road was steeper than ever and covered with giant potholes. It was much like an extreme biking obstacle course. But as much as I love riding the bike around, I still enjoyed the bumpy ride. At one point I was waiting at the top of a particularly steep hill waiting on my friend to catch up. Once I saw him appear around the corner I took off again....and then I very suddenly stopped.

I found the cave! It was the giant pot hole I was unable to avoid in the road!

This is what happened as I recall: I hit the pot hole, my tire stuck, my bike fell sideways, and we began to scrape down the steep hill that no longer looked fun. There was actually a slight fear in me as I felt my head bounce off the asphalt. I could see my motor-cy continue sliding about 10 feet after I had caught myself and tried to sit up. I did a quick self injury check and then said "Is the bike okay?!". My friend stared at me in amazement while saying the usual "Better question, are you okay?!" I was more concerned with the bill I would have to pay if I didn't bring the bike back in one piece.

I self assessed my wounds (they weren't pretty) and decided I didn't have a terrible concussion. In fact I was more concerned with the swarm of bees I had managed to land in. Crashing was bad enough, but I was not getting stung by a foreign bee! Sure my right leg was covered in asphalt, sand, and blood, and my toe may have needed stitches, but I figured I could survive that will a little cleaning; but a bee sting was out of the question. I kept hobbling up the hill in a weak attempt to escape them.

After about 20 minutes to determine if I was concussion free I decided that I would need to drive back to Pai. Many people had stopped but driven on once they realized I was alive. I had to look mad as I was laughing at the whole thing and standing on the side of the road in a torn up shirt and covered in blood and dirt. Once my bike was retrieved from the bottom of the hill I slowly began the hour drive back home.

Luckily as a girl who grew up in the country of Texas, I was quite accustomed to nursing nasty injuries. A little peroxide and Neosporin could fix just about anything. So when I reached Pai I stopped at the first pharmacy I found and limped my bloody self up to the counter to ask for the necessary ingredients. Again, I was impressed with the cheapness of my goody bag of medication, cleaners, and bandages. I had a nice looking first aid kit for roughly 3USD. Impressive.

So now that I'm bandaged up and ready for recovery, I've decided to remain in Pai. It's a lovely city and small enough the hobble around. I can't think of a better place for healing. It's peaceful, has a river, and friendly talented people. I've been here a week already and have no desire to move for at least a few more days. This motorcycle crash was just the excuse I needed to sit back and relax in my favorite Thailand city.

Pai, Pai, I love Pai.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Motor-taxi of Doom: Bangkok

By Liane Nichols


Today I began my adventure of backpacking it around Thailand. My first stop was Bangkok to visit a friend for the night, and from there I would head out early morning to catch a bus to Krabi. Little did I know, I was in for one hell of a ride.  

It was Thursday morning. I took the BTS toward Victory Monument. My research online as to how to get to Southern Terminal had pointed me in this direction. It was wrong. After leaving the BTS, I quickly flagged down a motor taxi (a motorcycle that drives you around Bangkok) and said "Chimplee - Southern Terminal" like my online directions had told me to do. The driver said "Okay - 80 baht". I had been told it would be this much - things were going to plan quite well. I hopped on. 

That's when the driver turned around and started dodging oncoming traffic. I was frightened, but after living in Thailand for 5 months, I knew this was not uncommon. I held on tightly. Eventually we made it to the correct side of the road and I began to relax. However, that's when the driver kept asking others where this "Southern Terminal" was. He had no clue. None. Nada. I started to worry. After weaving in and out of traffic, taking off, slamming on breaks, and a few near misses, we eventually found a man who seemed to know where to go...and he said it was far. Very far. 

Now the driver turned to me and said "Oh, very far. 400 Baht." No way, Jose! I eventually talked him down to 250baht. I didn't know exactly how far "far" meant and didn't want to get ripped off on my very first day of adventuring! That's when something odd happened. The driver handed me a helmet and took off his taxi driver vest. Where were we going?! As if dodging traffic and speeding down side roads wasn't dangerous enough - now it seemed he believed that where ever we were going was far worse and I needed protection. Yet I held on. Why, I'm not entirely sure. I had come this far with the driver; I figured I could survive a bit longer. 

The end result was an hour drive back and forth around Bangkok and eventually seeing the glorious sign that read "SOUTHERN TERMINAL". I think I almost cried in relief. When carrying a 50 lbs backpack and holding on like any second might be your last, your body has a tendency to seize up. I was quite surprised when I was actually able to stand up and walk when I departed from the bike's back seat. Every inch of me wanted to fall off. I'm pretty sure that my thigh muscles have been strained due to excessive gripping of the sides of the motorcycle. 

Alas, I am safe. I have a bus ticket that will take me to Krabi, Thailand. I will soon be in paradise, so why worry?

And that's my story.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ayuttaya: The Ancient Capital

Ayuttaya - some people say that historical landmarks and museums "aren't their thing", but after spending the day in the beautiful city of ruins, I believe these people must be crazy.

Upon arriving in Ayuttaya, my friend Marci and I were promptly blocked by a row of Tuk-Tuk drivers attempting to strike a deal for a city tour. For a small fee of 200 TBH per hour, our guide took us to the most famous of ruins. We saw the reclining Buddha, beautiful pagodas, walked through the ruins of what was once a majestic building of much royal power. We gazed upon the ever famous Buddha head that has been grown into a tree - but were careful not to tower over it, for this is concidered highly disrespectful. I even enjoyed a fresh coconut as we buzzed happily through the city on the back of the Tuk-Tuk.

However, one down side is that many of the sites require a fee to be paid before entering. As a normal tourist, this may not pose a problem. The average fee is 30-50 baht. But alas, I am not a tourist, but an English teacher who still has to watch her baht. It would seem that the stereotype is "you have white skin, you have money", and the locals take no pity on me. I still have to pay the foreigner price instead of the local Thai price, work permit present or not.

Overall, I would recommend a day trip to this wonderful city. If in fact you are intrigued by ancient cities and their ruins, you are sure to enjoy what Ayuttaya has to offer. Personally I felt this incredible tranquiliy in the air walking through the city. Maybe it was the elephants giving people a lift through the streets, or maybe it was just a beautiful day, but I felt incredible being able to walk through a city of such significance. I even let myself get suckered into buying a "happy elephant" carving from a street salesmen. I was happy with my purchase.