Category Archives: tourist


I am finishing up my 4th trip to Vientiane Laos.  Thailand is going to let me stay in the country 3 more months.  There’s not much to do in Vientiane.  I’ve seen everything already.  So I passed most of my time thinking about my life, walking along the Mekong River, and watching youtube videos 🙂  I did eat some good food.  I tried a new French restaurant near the hotel I stayed at and visited the Chok Dee Cafe again.

Yesterday was a Thai holiday which means the embassy was closed.  Which means I got my visa a day late.  There was a small chance I would make my flight home.  Right after I got my passport back I headed to the airport.  I got to the airport 20 minutes before my flight left.  But by then the check-in counters were closed already.  So I missed my flight but was able to book a new flight a few hours later.  So now I have some time to kill in the airport.


A taxi from the airport to any place in the city center costs 57,000 kip.  The hotel I stayed at books a taxi from the hotel to the airport for 60,000 kip.  I planned to take a tuk tuk from the embassy straight to the airport.  I asked the tuk tuk driver how much.  He said 100,000 kip!  I said why so much?  He said how much do you want to pay?  I said a taxi is 60,000.  He came down to 80,000 then I said 70,000 which the tuk tuk driver agreed to.  I thought I did pretty good.  Don’t let the tuk tuk drivers overcharge.


Koh Phi Phi

On the 11th Anong and I travelled to Koh Phi Phi to visit a friend of mine and her husband who were visiting from America.  We woke up early and by 12:00 we were on the island checking into our hotel.

Koh Phi Phi is very beautiful.  It has recovered from the 2004 tsunami and is back bigger and “better” than before.  I say “better” because Phi Phi now suffers from mass tourism.  I didn’t really see any Thai culture here.  Just lots of tourists.  It could have been a tropical island anywhere.  If one wants to relax on the beach and party at night, Phi Phi would be a good place to go.  Phi Phi is also the most expensive place I’ve stayed at and I didn’t think it offered good value for money.  Even though this is kind of critical of Koh Phi Phi I did enjoy my time there because I got to see some friends and the climbing is also good.  Oh, one good thing about Koh Phi Phi.  There are no cars on the island!  So at least I didn’t have to worry about getting hit by a car like I constantly do in Krabi / Ao Nang.

So back to the first day.  Anong and I met my friends for lunch then we headed off to Tonsai Tower for some climbing.  I had heard the grades here were soft so I was curious to see what the style of climbing was like and what I could do.

First Day

  1. Trong Pai (Straight Ahead) 6a+, Relatively straightforward climbing with a cruxy move near the anchor.  Onsight.
  2. Seven Samurais 6b+, Did this one on top rope but I should had led it.  Easy climbing up to a roof which then has huge jugs to pull on to get over the roof then moderate climbing to the anchor.
  3. Scenic Bulimic 6a, Huge blocky holds up a slight overhang.  A little pumpy but easy.  Onsight.
  4. Gladiator 6c, A steep jug haul.  Big fun moves.  Just when I thought I couldn’t hang on anymore it eases up near the anchor.  Onsight.
  5. Sol y Sombra 6b+,  By now I was feeling tired and thought I’d lead a nice relaxing 6a+ by heading up Sud Jawt.  Well, 3/4 of the way up my friends informed me I was on a 6b+.  Oops.  But it was going well so far so I continued up and was going well until I got to the crux.  WTF.  Had to rest to figure it out then pulled on the sling to get past.  Oh well.
  6. Crisis?  What Crisis? 6b, By now very tired but climbed cleanly on top rope.  Fun climb up some tufas.

So, yeah.  The grades seem soft.  Or maybe I’m that good?  No, they’re soft.  But it feels good to lead 6b+ without too much trouble and even onsight a 6c for the first time!

Day 2

Warm up on Scenic Bulimic 6a again.  Still feels pumpy.  Then we get started on today’s objective.  Going Dutch 6c+, a 4 pitch climb.  The first pitch was great.  More steep climbing with lots of jugs and pockets.  I was following but climbed it clean.  The next two pitches had some awkward sections on them.  Beta was difficult to figure out though graded easier than the first pitch I thought they were actually harder.  The final pitch was easier but the rock quality not as nice.  But overall it was a really good climb.  I was an idiot and dropped my ATC from the top of the third pitch which meant some time wasted on the rappel.  Amazingly enough I was able to find it in some bushes when we got down.  The sun was going down by the time we made it back to the ground and beers on the beach after tasted really good.

Day 3

  1. Golden Copulation 6b, I had to climb it for the name but it also looked fun.  A two pitch climb that I climbed as a single pitch.  Easy down low and very fun climbing up higher.  50+ meters of rope is really heavy.  Onsight.
  2. Mr Viper, Mr. Pit Viper 6a,  Slightly overhanging climbing up huge blocky holds.  Onsight.
  3. Pirates of the Andaman 6c, Bouldery start then easier climbing to the first anchor.  Onsight.  Follow second pitch.  Starts off easy then some tough moves on pockets.  Onsight.
  4. Sud Jawt 6a+,  Decided I should actually climb this climb that I intended to a couple days ago.  Not a bad climb.  Onsight.

The climbing in Koh Phi Phi is pretty good, even with the aggressive monkeys.  I’ll post some pictures later.  The grades on a lot of the climbs are on the soft side. Onsighting two 6c’s as well as a 6b and top roping 6c+ cleanly has me feeling good about myself.  But some of the climbs are very weird and maybe it’s just figuring out the beta but I thought were full value.  I’m thinking of the 6b+ pitches of “Going Dutch” and the 6b+ Sol Y Sombra.  Overall a good trip that was lots of fun.


Chiang Mai – Part 2

One night we decided to have a traditional northern cuisine dinner along with a show of traditional Thai dances.


The food.


There were many different dances and lots of good costumes.

The next day was Loy Krathong.  We visited a few more temples.  I’ll spare the pictures since they start to look all the same.  In the evening we walked around the city and participated in the festivities.





A couple weeks ago we met Christine when climbing at Tonsai.  Turns out she was going to be in Chiang Mai around the same time as us.  She was with a bunch of other friends and invited us to Thanksgiving dinner.  There was no turkey (we had some chicken) but we got to have some other traditional thanksgiving dishes.  We also made plans to go climbing a day or two later.

Anong wasn’t feeling too well so she stayed in the city but I met Christine and Kat at CMRCA in the morning for a day of climbing.  We decided to climb at Reunion Buttress.  It has a few fun moderate climbs and a really good three pitch climb that we were able to do as 2 pitches thanks to my 70m rope.  First we warmed up on Teamwork 5c which was relatively straightforward.  Then we climbed Smells Like Team Spirit 6a which had a cruxy middle section and a really good finish.  Then we did did the Reunion 6a, 5a, 6a+ which was fun, a little scary on the last pitch, and had some really good views.  By this time, Kat had to catch her ride back to town but Christine was riding with me so we had time for one more.  We finished up with Reminisce 6a.  By now it was starting to get dark  so it was time to head back.  Pro tip, best to leave the crag around 4:30 or 5:00 even though it stays light till 6:00 or 6:30.  Once the sun starts to go down all the bugs come out.  My helmet didn’t have a face shield so dealing with all the bugs was annoying.  Other than that, it was a great day climbing!


Kat going up Teamwork.


Me getting started on Smells Like Team Spirit.


Christine on Smells Like Team Spirit.


Kat on Smells Like Team Spirit.


View from the top of Reunion.

The next day we went back with plans to meet some friends of a friend who were also in Chiang Mai the same time as Anong and I.  We climbed at The Rooftop which doesn’t actually have any roofs but gets up up really high at Crazy Horse and the views are really good.  Warmed up on A Route With a View 5c+, then did Heun Fah 5b, and finally the best route at the crag, Skyscraper 6a.  It’s a rather long route at 29 meters with lots of fun moves.  We ate lunch then headed over to Tamarind Village and climbed The Chimney Sweep 6a which took me a couple of tries to get.  I guess I need to work on my chimney climbing technique.  Then The Queen Bee 5c, 4500 5a, and finally finished up the day on Happy Birthday 6b which I climbed clean first go but on top rope and was a good finish to the day / climbing at Crazy Horse.


Anong belaying me as I head up Skyscraper.

Back in the city we had Khao Ka Moo from the cowboy hat lady.  It was really good.



Laos Visa Run

Well, it’s been a year already.  But I don’t feel ready to come home.  So I decided to enroll for one more year of Thai language lessons which means a visa run to Laos.  I guess I need to rename this blog.  Sorry to family and friends that miss me.  I’m going to be gone one more year and will definitely be coming home after the year is up.

On December 10th, we woke up early to catch a flight to Udon Thani.  Then from there needed to figure out how to get to Nong Bua Lamphu.  We decided to stay a few days in Nong Bua Lamphu to visit Anong’s family.  We figure out we need to go to “Udon Thani Bus Station #2” which is 4km away.  The taxi station at the airport says it will be 200 Baht.  This seemed very expensive and they were not willing to negotiate so I told them for that price I’d rather walk.  I didn’t really want to walk but I’m also not willing to be overcharged just because I’m an obvious foreigner.  Luckily we find a tuk tuk driver who said he would take us for 100 Baht.  Deal!  5 minutes later we were at the bus station and as luck would have it the bus we needed was leaving in just a few minutes.  So we are on our way to Nong Bua Lamphu!  Later on I’m comparing prices of the Udon Thani airport taxi to other places.  Most taxi’s are charging 20 to 25 Baht per km.  This taxi wanted 50 Baht per km.  No thanks!

In Nong Bua Lamphu we didn’t do much.  Just relaxed a couple days then got on another bus back to Udon Thani then a mini bus to Nongkai / Thai / Laos Friendship Bridge.

Going through the border was pretty much as I remember it. First go through Thai immigration and use your departure card to exit Thailand. Then take a bus across the bridge (20 Baht) to enter Laos and go through Laos immigration. The Laos immigration border is very confusing to me but after going through it 2 times now I think I have it figured out. There is one line that Thai (maybe other) citizens go through. They pay 100 Baht to get an entry/exit card then go through immigration and get their passport stamped. American (and most likely other) citizens go through a different process. Go to window #2 and get the visa on arrival form. Then go to window #1 and give them your form, passport and pay $36 dollars. Then go to window #3 to collect your passport with new visa and any change. Sometimes I do really stupid things. I have no idea why but I skipped window #2 and gave window #1 my Thai education visa application form the school prepared for me for the Thai embassy consular office. Nobody said hey moron you gave us the wrong form, go to window #2 and get the right form. They just accepted it and gave me my visa so I had no idea at the time I gave them the wrong form. Anyways, now that I have my visa, I get to skip the other immigration lines and also don’t need to buy the exit card. Just show whichever “official” looking person your visa with stamp and they will let you through.

Now into Laos we need to figure out how to get to the hotel. It’s about 20km to the hotel we’re staying at so walking isn’t really an option. I’m always skeptical of people coming up to me offering rides. First they said 60 kip to the hotel we were staying at. I was very confused because 60 kip is basically free. Less than 1 cent. After clarifying they meant 60,000 kip which is about 250 Baht. Seemed reasonable so I went with it. After 30 or 40 minutes we arrived at the hotel. Something slightly humorous on the ride to the hotel happened. Turns our our taxi was actually a song thao so we picked up another person who happened to be a kind of cute Lao girl, probably in her 20’s. Halfway through the trip she spoke something in Lao. I just ignored it because I thought she was talking to Anong sitting across from me. Lao and Isaan languages are very similar so Anong can easily and often does talk with Lao people.  Lao people also understand a lot of Thai.  The grammar is pretty much the same but vocabulary is often different.  There is some common vocabulary and Laos people are exposed to a lot of Thai media which is one reason they understand Thai.  But Thai people understand little to none of the Lao language.  So this girl says “อ้ายอ้ายไปไส” which sounded like gibberish to me since I wasn’t expecting anyone to speak to me let alone in the Laos language.  I ignored her because I didn’t understand what she said and didn’t think she was talking to me.  Anong ignored her because it was obvious to Anong that she was talking to me.  I later learned a rough translation of what she said was “Hey dude, where are you going?”  I guess she thought I was cute too.


I wasn’t too impressed with Vientiane the first time I came here, partly because the first time I came here I choose a hotel close to the embassy (about a 5 minute walk). There really isn’t anything to do in that area. This time I chose a much nicer hotel which is closer to lots of restaurants, cafe’s, shops, temples, etc… But it’s about a 45 minute walk. Vientiane is slowly growing on me. The place is an interesting juxtaposition of Lao, Buddhist, Communist, and French influence. International cuisine is pretty good here and of course there is a lot of Lao / Thai food to be found.

The embassy / consular office was closed all last week due to a holiday or something. So Monday morning was a complete shit show. Anong and I got there just after 8:30am when they open and there were already hundreds of people there. I’m guessing 333 people to be exact since the number given to me for next day pickup was 334. It wasn’t like last time where you stand in line to get a number then can sit down, relax, wander around while waiting for your group of numbers to be called up with window 1 or 2 to submit your application. It was just one giant line that snaked around the chairs in the waiting area, back to the entrance, around the yard, and out the entrance. At one point one of the guards decided the gate needed to be opened, I think for a car or motorbike coming in or out. I forget. Anyways, he just opened the gate and rolled it right into some people around me waiting next to it without any warning at all. Luckily I avoided it but a couple people got their shins / feet bashed. WTF? Seems at least once a week I see something new that makes me shake my head and leaves me dumbfounded about the behavior of Thai people. Not even any warning this guy just decides to roll the gate right into people waiting in line. How is that acceptable behavior in any culture?

Except for that it was pretty boring. Was next to a guy from Australia who spoke pretty good Thai. He was teaching me some Thai slang / vocabulary. Most of which I’ve already forgotten but did write down a couple things. Shortly after the gate incident and chatting with the Australian guy, I realized my mistake at the Lao border and that I did not have the visa application form. After a short panic Anong got a new form for me. Luckily I had one extra passport / visa photo. But the form requires two pictures. So I found a picture on another document I didn’t need to submit and cannibalized that. It was a little smaller than the first picture so I spent the next two hours standing in line wondering if my pictures would be accepted. There was a place photos can be made but I didn’t want to take new pictures and lose my place in line. By the time I finally got to the application window I submitted my application and forms. The guy behind the counter didn’t say anything and said ok, come back tomorrow so I guess they’re good. I’ll find out soon since I’m on my way to pick up my passport that hopefully has a new visa in it. Total time in line, nearly 4 hours!

Advice for visa application. Don’t go on a Monday after long holiday or you will spend a lot of time waiting in line. Even after I was done the line still went all the way back to the gate.

The next day I go back to pick up my visa.  Another long confusing line.  But after awhile I figure out we don’t need to stand in line and they’re calling numbers up.  So I sit down on the grass and wait.  About 3 hours later I have a shiny new visa.  Later on I learned over 1000 people applied for visas that day.  Definitely do not go on a Monday after long holiday.

The next day we’re off to Bangkok for a week.  Saw some friends, climbed on fake rocks, and ate some good food.



Chiang Mai

A few weeks ago, Anong and I decided somewhat spontaneously to go to Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong.  Since Chiang Mai also has some very good climbing at Crazy Horse Buttress, we also packed the climbing gear and got ready for a week of climbing and Thai culture.    On November 20th, we hopped on the airplane and were off!

Day #1 First order of business was to get checked into our room.  A ฿160 taxi ride from the airport took us to the Yindee Stylish Guesthouse.  The rooms were clean with air conditioning and hot water and reasonably priced at around ฿1000 per night.  There are of course much cheaper rooms in Chiang Mai, as little as 100 to 200 Baht per night but in my old age, I require just a little bit of luxury these days.

Second order of business was to find the CMRCA climbing shop to get some beta for Crazy Horse.  We found it without not much trouble and picked up a guidebook for the area and got some new climbing shoes for Anong since her old ones will likely be worn out in a few months.


Anong testing out her new shoes.

The CMRCA shop is pretty  cool.  In addition to having lots of gear that can be rented or purchased, they also have a pretty good bouldering wall / training room.  If you’re a climber and in Chiang Mai, definitely check it out.

Third order of business, eat dinner!  Northern Thailand is known for its unique cuisine.  One of the most famous dishes in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi (Thai: ข้าวซอย).  It’s a coconut based curry noodle dish containing egg noodles, chicken (or pork), some vegetables, and topped with crispy fried noodles.  It’s delicious and one of my favorite Thai foods.


First Khao Soi of many in Chiang Mai.  This one was very good.


Day #2, first thing we did was find a shop to rent a motorbike.  Motorbike rental shops are all over Chiang Mai so they are not hard to find.  Chiang Mai isn’t as well known for its motorbike scams as Koh Tao but it still happens so I did a little research before hand to find some reputable shops.  Thai Moto Rent seems to be the most highly regarded shop but unfortunately they had none available.  Another shop named Mr. Mechanic also seemed pretty good and as a bonus they were close to my room.  So I rented a bike from them and we headed off to explore the city.  BTW, other than an empty tank when we received the bike there were no issues with the bike or the shop trying to scam me when returning the bike.  So except for the British helmet, Mr. Mechanic gets a thumbs up from me.


Unfortunately, this British flag helmet was the only one that fit. 😦

Exploring a new city means visiting the numerous temples in the area.  Here’s a few pictures from Wat Phra That Doikham:


And a few pictures from Wat Phra That Doisuthep which I didn’t really like since they charge a fee for foreigners to enter.


Day #3 is what I was stoked for.  Climbing at Crazy Horse!


Since this was my first day at a new climbing spot, we just took it easy.  My goal was to get familiar with the area and climb lots of easy routes.  The first wall from the trail is Crazy Horse Area and it has a few easy routes on it.  So we set up shop there and climbed:

  • Ding Dong 5b
  • The Muppet Show 5b

We met an Italian guy who was just learning to climb and was there with a friend.  They didn’t have enough quickdraws so asked to climb with us a bit.  We were planning to move on to another area but I headed back up The Muppet Show one more time so he could try it on top rope.  Considering that he was climbing in sneakers he climbed it well for a beginning climber.

After he was done, I climbed again to clean the route.  Since I haven’t taught Anong how to clean a route yet, that means I’ve climbed 6 pitches by now.  Once to lead, and once to clean.

Next we decided to go to the Anxiety State Crisis Cave.  The best routes here are above my ability but there are some easier ones.  Beautiful Mess 6a was fun and except for a cruxy section in the middle of the route was pretty easy.  I also put up The Underworld 5c which was also nice but not quite as good as the first route.  By now it was starting to get dark.  After a bit of a panic over lost keys (thankfully found) from our new Italian friends we were on our way home.

Day #4 it was back to Crazy Horse.  This time we climbed at Heart Wall which is pretty new and has lots of good routes.  The goal for today was still to take it easy and have fun but push myself just a little more.  We warmed up on Peuan Jai Rai 5a then moved over to Kuu Jai 5c.  Now time for something a little harder.  Dtok Jai 6a+ relatively easy climbing but then comes a small roof.  Getting up and over this is the crux which I think is a bit harder than graded.  I fell here and it took a couple tries to figure it out.  I was certainly startled when I came to this.  Once past the crux it’s easy climbing to the anchor.  Next up was Duang Jai 6a+ It looked like a fun route with a traversy chimney like section.  I was having fun, trying not to let the exposure get to me and everything was going well until I came to a section of rock covered by what must have been millions of some kind of small beetle that looked like a lady bug.  Even though by now I was only a few bolts from the anchor, seeing no clear path through these insects, I decided to bail off the route.  So I took apart one of my quickdraws and lowered off a carabiner.

On the way down I came to the anchor for Hua Jai Wai 6c+ so I set that up to try on top rope.  It starts off very steep with powerful, overhanging moves on nice big holds.  But then the rock turns vertical and the holds get much smaller and sharper.  Needless to say it took me a few tries to get to the top but it was fun to try something hard.


From the ground, I thought the black stuff on the rock was some kind of lichen.  But no, it’s millions of tiny black lady bug-like beetles.


View from the top of a climb.


The 6c+ and another view of the insects.


Day #5 was a climbing rest day.  We spent most of the day at the Chiang Mai zoo.  Speaking Thai, was able to get the Thai price for tickets.  Screw you dual pricing Thailand!  Here’s some pictures from the zoo:


Ticket prices.  Adults 150 Baht or 100 Baht if you can read Thai.


Got the 100 Baht ticket!



Had to buy another ticket to see the panda bears.  100 Baht or 50 Baht if you can read Thai.


That’s it for now.  The rest of the pictures are on my camera in Krabi and I’m in Isaan visiting Anong’s family and getting ready to go to Laos to apply for a new visa.  So stay tuned for part 2 in a couple weeks when I’m back in Krabi.




Koh Tao


Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand near Surat Thani.  Since I came to Thailand, I haven’t done much travelling but a friend from home was on vacation there so it gave me an excuse to get out of Ao Nang and see a little more of Thailand.  Koh Tao also has climbing so it was an easy decision to go for a few days.  Anong and I packed our bags and headed out.

Getting to Koh Tao (from Ao Nang)


Just got off the bus. Waiting for the ferry on the pier at Surat Thani.

Koh Tao is kind of hard to get to.  There are a few options.  The first and probably quickest is to catch a flight from Krabi Airport and fly to Koh Samui.  Bangkok Airways does one flight a day for about 3100 baht.  Once to Koh Samui take a taxi to one of the piers then a ferry to Koh Tao.  Total price would be around 4000 baht per person including taxi to / from airports and total travel time around 4 to 5 hours depending on how schedules line up.

The next option is to take a take a Songthaew from Ao Nang to the Krabi bus station and get a bus to Surat Thani.  Find your way to the pier then buy a ferry ticket to Koh Tao.  I’m not sure how much this would cost but I’m guessing around 700 baht and it will likely take all day and might require an overnight stay in Surat Thani depending on how the ferry schedules line up which would eliminate any savings.

The third option and what I think is the best value is to book a tour package through one of the resorts in the area.  I ended up at Slumber Party Hostel because they are close to where I live and they provided me with a package through Lomprayah High Speed Ferries that included pickup in Ao Nang for 1100 baht per person.  Total travel time was about 8 hours.  It also looks like tickets can be booked on their website.

Coming back, I was able to book tickets online through Seatran Discovery that included drop off at my room in Ao Nang for around 900 Baht because they were discounting tickets for some reason.  Standard price is 1100 Baht.

Where To Stay


Sairee beach.

Sairee beach has the highest concentration of resorts, restaurants, and things to do.  I’ve also heard it can be very loud at night with many bars playing loud music all night.  I ended up staying about 1 kilometer past the end of the beach at Koh Tao Hillside Resort.  It was nice and quiet but I probably wouldn’t stay here again since my room was rather run down and not very nice for the price paid.  But the pool was nice and the restaurant had pretty good food.  If I go back, I might try staying on the other side of the island where it’s even quieter and more secluded.


Getting Around


Depending on what you want to do / where you want to go you’ll need your own transportation.  Taxi’s on the island are ridiculously expensive.  I heard one couple was quoted 400 baht (just over 11 dollars) to go from Sairee beach to the pier which is about 5 minutes away by car and only 2 or 3 kilometers away.  But a quick search online shows motorbike rental shops are notorious for scamming tourists and charging outrageous fees for small scratches on the bike that were already there at the time of rental.  But be careful.  If you’ve never ridden a scooter or motorcycle before, Koh Tao is a bad place to learn.  It’s hard to believe but the people on Koh Tao drive even worse than the people in Krabi.  On top of that, the roads are filled with potholes, covered in sand or dirt, and some of the roads are extremely steep.  I had heard good things about Oli’s Motorbike Rentals and that they were an honest shop.  So I took my chances and rented a 125cc Honda Click from them.  I also left my passport with them even though it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.  The bike was had just enough power to get Anong and I with our climbing gear to the top of Mek’s Mountain where we went climbing.  No incidents while driving and Oli’s is indeed an honest shop.  If you find yourself on Koh Tao and need a motorbike, use Oli’s.

What To Do

The main activity on the island is diving.  From what I hear the diving is very good and PADI diving certifications aren’t very expensive.  But I wasn’t stoked on the diving.  Instead, Anong and I found some other things to occupy our time.

Go Climbing!

The island is littered with massive granite boulders and some cliffs so we hired a guide through Good Time Adventures to show us around.  It’s not necessary to hire a guide but since we were only there for a few days I didn’t want to waste time finding the best climbs.  We went climbing the first day with Good Time Adventures then two days later went back to Mek’s Mountain on our own.


Try Something New

Good Time Adventures also gives flying trapeze lessons.  I’d never tried it before but it looked like fun.  It was lots of fun but one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.




Eat and Drink A Lot


Lap Gai from some unnamed Thai restaurant on the side of the road.


Som Tam Thai from the same restaurant.

There are lots of good restaurants on the Island.  A few I recommend are:

  1. tHAITA iTALIAN RESTAURANT.  Simple Italian food prepared with fresh ingredients.  The best dinner I had on the island and it was reasonably priced.



  2. The Gallery.  Fancy Thai food.  I only had a drink and an appetizer here but based on what I saw I’m sure everything else is also delicious.
  3. Le Petit Palace.  European / American food.  I had a hamburger here that was very average.  But I liked the place anyways because they have a good but pricey selection of beer.  I had a Deschutes IPA for the first time in 9 months and it was delicious!
  4. Thai-Riffic.  The Thai food here is sort of westernized but it’s still pretty good.  But the real reason to come here is for the dessert and baked goods.  They are delicious.  Finding this place was extremely difficult.  It’s not on the map where Google says it is and asking local Thai people where it is doesn’t work because they only hear “Thai restaurant” and say oh, there are 3 on this street and point you in the completely wrong direction.  But we persevered and eventually found it.


    Pad Grapow Moo


Practice Yoga

IMG_7791We went to Grounded Yoga two times while we were on the island.  I though the teachers were good and drop in classes are fairly priced at 250 baht.


Pre class warm up with high plank.


Yoga students after class.

Get A Massage

There are many massage shops all along Sairee beach.  Standard price for a one hour Thai massage is 300 baht.  A bit more expensive than Ao Nang but not too bad.  We went to one place and got ok massages.  The next night we tried the spa at our resort and got a much better massage but it was 100 baht more.  I’d say it was worth it for the better experience.

Watch The Sunset


This is the resort next to the one we stayed at. It looks very fancy and much nicer. I checked online and it was about the same price ! 😦


Windy and cloudy but still very nice sunset dinner at Aminjirah


Go Explore

Driving around the island is also fun.  There are several large hills / small mountains and driving up to them provides beautiful views.  There are also some temples and shrines on the island that we visited.






Thai Buddhist temple.


My best impersonation of Alex Honnold


Well, that’s about it.  5 days on the island and I was ready to come back to Ao Nang.  But it’s been raining every day since I got back.  I might need to go on another vacation to a less rainy part of Thailand.



A friend of mine from work was coming to Bangkok so Anong and I booked some airplane tickets to visit her (thanks for the hospitality Jackie!).  During the day Anong and I explored Bangkok, visited temples, and sampled the many options for food in the city.  In the evenings we met up with Jackie and her friends for dinner and drinks.

On the 17th, we arrived in the afternoon.  Getting from the airport to the city isn’t too difficult but it does take some time…  We flew into Don Mueang Airport which means we had to take the A1 bus to the Mo Chit Bus Station which connects to the BTS (Sky Train).  Once in the sky train station it was pretty easy to figure out how to get to Jackie’s place.  I think it took about 2.5 hours to get there though.  Once we got off the BTS is was a 20 minute or so walk.  It didn’t take us long to find some street food.


If I go to Bangkok again I think I will try flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport which I think connects to the subway and BTS which would save lots of time by avoiding the bus ride.  A little later in the evening we all went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant then met some other friends for drinks at a place called Small’s Bar.   They had a pretty cool rooftop seating area.

The next day was a gruelling tour of all the wats (temples) in Bangkok.  Well, not all of them but we went to 7 or 8 wats and a couple other shrines so it felt like we went to all of them.  But first Anong and I went to a yoga studio for a nice morning workout.  It was interesting trying a new yoga studio with different teachers and a different style of yoga.  Anyone in Bangkok should check out Roots8Yoga.


Now for the wats!  I think the first place we went to was called Chao Pho Suea Joss House.  I can’t recommend going there.  Once we got close to the entrance a few ladies selling incense, candles, and other things start quickly talking to us and showing a price list of various things.  Anong is discussing various things with them.  This is all happening in Thai so I’m not really sure what is being discussed.  I don’t have a good feeling about this but I thought I’d just let Anong do her thing since it’s important to her  and it seems they agreed on an offering tray with a few things on it for around ฿200 which didn’t seem too bad.  So we go in side, light the prescribed number of incense sticks at each spot, burn some candles and do our thing.  Meanwhile some dude is talking over a loudspeaker and some lady is following us around seemingly explaining various things to Anong but this is all unusual to me so I ask why is this lady following us around.  Not getting a clear answer I just go with the flow.  About 10 minutes later we walk out and back to the stand that sold us the tray of things and they tell us it’s ฿790!  What!?  Being in a little bit of shock I just pay it unsure of what service they provided for 10 minutes that was worth ฿790.  After explaining to Anong that I don’t like being taken advantage of and that we can not spend ฿790 at every wat we go to we were on our way.

For any visitors to Thailand, here’s the standard operating procedure when visiting temples.

  1. You can bring your own incense and candles.  But if you use the incense and candles at the temple, they usually suggest a donation of ฿5 to ฿20.
  2. More popular temples will have vendors selling flowers outside.  Flowers will cost between ฿25 to ฿100 but none of this money goes to the temple so skip it.
  3. When going inside the temple, take off your shoes.
  4. When inside, light incense, say prayers, burn candles, take pictures.  Pictures are almost always ok.  Just be quiet and reverent.
  5. There are usually 1 or 2 monks inside the temple.  It’s ok to talk to the monk and you can get a blessing from the monk.  It’s not required but a ฿20 donation is appropriate.
  6. There will be other donation boxes inside the temple.  Donate any amount you feel is appropriate.

The next stop is Wat Phra Kaew.  It’s inside the Grand Palace and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city.  Outside they have a recording that plays every minute or two to remind people the palace is open every day and to be suspicious of anyone approaching you.  Apparently a big scam is to tell tourists the palace is closed today then take them on a tour of gem and tailor shops with high pressure salesmen.  It’s nice to see something being down to cut down on the tourist scams.  The price to go inside was ฿500 for tourists!  Thais are free.  Thanks Thailand for yet another reminder that although you are happy to take my money, I am not really welcome here and do not belong.  Still feeling sick from the last experience it was an easy decision to wait outside while Anong went in.  It was so crowded that Anong wasn’t able to take any pictures so I feel like I didn’t miss anything.  Here’s a couple pictures I got while I waited.



Before Wat Phra Kaew we saw this:


Mother Earth Squeezing Her Hair. A shrine to Queen Patcharindra who set up access to clean water for the people.

And this:



Next was Wat Pho.  ฿200 to get in (free for Thais).  No thanks.  Here’s a picture of the ceiling over the bench I sat on while waiting outside.


After Wat Pho we went to Wat Arun.  Wat Arun had lots of interesting things to look at.  Most of which can be seen without paying a fee.  There is one section that does have a fee but it’s a more reasonable ฿40 so I ended up paying that and got a few more pictures.











IMG_0858After Wat Arun we bought some boat tickets and rode up and down the Chao Phraya River (Thai: แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา) and saw a few more temples.  Note the “Ch” is pronounced with a ‘J’ sound.  At this point all the temples started looking the same so here’s a few more pictures:








Done with the temples!  Here’s another street food picture.  They are making Kanom Krok.  My favorite Thai snack / dessert:


On the 19th, I went to yoga in the morning.  After yoga we relaxed then headed out on the BTS to explore Bangkok a little bit.  We did a little shopping at MBK but didn’t buy much.  Walked around, and ate some food.

On the 20th, we went to see the Erawan Shrine.  It’s a statue with four faces.





Then we went to China Town.


Durian Gan Yao!


Of course we went to more wats!



Painting on a ceramic pot.


This is a solid gold statue of Buddha. This picture cost me ฿40



The temples in China Town reminded me of Hong Kong.


The durian was delicious.






Then we ate pizza at Via Vai.  A guy we were with is friends with the owner so we got this extra fancy pizza.  We drank red wine and ate some more normal pizzas.  Best pizza I’ve had in Thailand so far.


 And on our last day, we just went to the airport.  Back on the BTS to Mo Chit.  Then take the A1 to the airport.  It was a bit of an adventure finding the bus station and the bus.  I learned that Thai people are happy to give you directions even when they don’t know the location of where you are trying to go.  The bus stop didn’t list the A1 bus so I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to come here.  Anong asked someone and they said walk up to the next spot about 100 feet away.  Still no indication that the A1 bus would come here and nobody can explain to me why it comes here when it’s not listed as stopping here.  Eventually a #29 bus comes.  I’m not sure how but Anong quickly figured out it also goes to the airport and we confirmed it with the bus driver.  So we get on the bus and about a half mile up the road pass another bus stop with clearly marked sign for the A1 bus.  Eventually we made it to the airport and got to the gate 20 minutes before boarding.

Bangkok was a fun city.  I’d like to go back to sample more of the street food and see some of the other areas.  I was really amazed at how much food is in the city.  There are many restaurants but the sidewalks are packed with food vendors at all times of the day.  I was also pleasantly surprised with the taxis.  I’d heard horror stories about taxis not using the meters, over charging, and refusing to take you to where you wanted to go but the couple times we took a taxi we did not have any of those problems.

Vientiane, Laos


Laos and Soviet flags

I haven’t been posting much because I went to Laos on the 21st.  The internet in Laos barely works, kind of like in China.  I was there to apply for my Thailand education visa which will let me stay in the country for up to a year.  I’m happy to report I was able to get the visa without much trouble and made it back into Thailand.  I’m at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok writing this, killing some time…

My first impression of Laos was not very good.  First off, the border crossing is rather confusing.  To enter Laos at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge crossing here’s the process:

  1. Fill out your Thailand departure card and exit Thailand.
  2. Buy a bus ticket for 40 Baht and wait for the bus to cross the bridge.  The buses run about every 10 minutes so the wait isn’t too bad.
  3. On the Laos side, fill out your visa on entry form.  Here’s where it is a little confusing.  Go to window number 2 to get the form.  Then when the form is filled out, go to window number 1 to hand it in and pay the visa fee.  Then go to window number 3 and wait for your passport and any change.
  4. Finally you can go through Laos immigration / customs.
Bus across the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge

Bus across the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge, going over the Mekong River.

Leaving is also a bit of a mess.  It’s not obvious that you have to purchase an exit card for 10,000 kip.  They don’t tell you this before going through immigration.

Second, as an obvious foreigner I always feel a little bit like people are just after my money in SE Asia.  Granted, some parts of Thailand are pretty bad in this regard but I felt like Laos was even worse.  This was especially apparent with the Tuk Tuk drivers.  They are dishonest and will take advantage of you.

Third, Vientiane has got to be a contender for least walkable city in the world.  Everybody parks their car on the sidewalk.  Forcing you to walk in the street most of the time.  I don’t even see this in Thailand.   This, combined with the same crazy driving as in Thailand made walking around the city not a lot of fun.

WTF?  A total shit show.

WTF? A total shit show.

But there are also some nice things about Vientiane.  This city / country has been through a lot and at one point was ruled by the French.  So a lot of French influence can be seen in the architecture.  There are also a lot of cafe’s, French restaurants, and wine bars in the city and there’s lots of good western food to be found when one tires of fried rice and phad thai.  This is also seen in a lot of the signs around the city, many are in Laos and French.


The Temples!  There are a lot of Buddhist temples in the city and some of them are very impressive. IMG_0285



Patuxai Monument.  This concrete behemoth looks very impressive from far away.  For a small fee (and I’m sure foreigners pay more) you can go to the very top which offers 360 degree views of the city.




L’adresse de Tinay.  A delicious French restaurant near Wat Ong Teu. I’ll spare you pictures of what I ate but I really liked this restaurant for two reasons.  The food is amazing and the bathrooms actually have toilet paper in them (and the floors aren’t soaking wet).  It was quite an adventure getting here.  Maybe I will write about it later.

So, if you find yourself in Vientiane, Laos, here are a few things I recommend.

  1. Visit Wat Ong Teu and Wat Si Saket temples.
  2. Eat at L’adresse de Tinay.
  3. Go to the night market at Chao Anouvong Park.
  4. Ride a Tuk Tuk!  But beware.  Before riding:
    1. Know where you are going and how to get there.
    2. Negotiate a price before you leave.
  5. See the Patuxai Monument.
  6. Walk along the Mekong River.


Before I get down to the daily grind of learning Thai and climbing rocks in Ao Nang, I decided to spend a few nights in Phuket.  The first time I stayed in Phuket about 2 years ago I stayed in Patong Beach.  It was quite an experience with the culture shock and over the top night life.  This time I wanted something a little quieter so I’m staying near Kata beach.  Apparently it is very popular with the Russian tourists because many restaurants have English and Russian menus.  I was told to avoid the Russians b I haven’t been staying out late and going to the bars so I have not had to put up with drunk obnoxious people.  During the daytime the seem harmless.

Also, Eastern Europeans apparently can not eat spicy food.  In Kata Beach, you have to ask for the food to be made spicy.  Everywhere else the food defaults to spicy.  So even though the Thai food is not very spicy in Kata, it’s a nice place.

I did get out of town a little bit.  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  1. Visited Wat Kittisangkaram
  2. Rented a scooter and drove around
  3. Saw the Phuket Big Buddha
  4. Drove said scooter to Phromthep Cape
  5. Got a massage for 300 BHT which is 9.14 USD.  Not super cheap compared to other parts of Thailand but basically free when compared to the prices back home.

I’ll post some pictures later but I’m still not over the jet lag so am going to sleep now.  In the morning I’m headed to Ao Nang.

Almost There!

Well, it’s been quite a process to get to where I am now.  Which is sitting in the Emirates lounge at the Dubai International Airport.  I have one more hour left of my 17 hour layover.  So, what did it take to get here?  Mostly packing up and getting everything organized at home before I left.  Some of the things I did:

  1. Find a property manager to rent my house
  2. Lots of house improvements
    1. Clean the yard
    2. Paint most of the rooms
    3. Install new carpet
    4. Finish some old projects
  3. Pack all my things away and throw away old stuff I no longer need and get rid of clutter and garbage
  4. Organize my finances
  5. Quit my job
  6. Sell my car
  7. Throw lots of going away parties!

I’m sure there’s more but those are the biggest ones I can remember.

Dubai Airport

The Dubai airport is pretty nice.  I saw terminal A and the Emirates lounge there.  I also saw terminal B and am hanging out in the lounge now.  The lounge in Terminal A is much nicer than in B.  Mostly because the showers are really good.  This morning I took a shower in terminal A and this afternoon in B.  I guess I should have taken pictures but the shower in terminal A is a full bathroom where the shower in terminal B is just a shower stall with small changing room attached.  The food in both terminals in about the same.

Lets see.  There are a few things that surprised me about the airport

  1. There are birds flying around in here
  2. There are squat toilets here (as well as western).  I thought that was just an Asian thing but I guess not
  3. They have milk chocolate made from camel milk
  4. Everything is really expensive here