Last November I traveled to Thailand with an open mind and no set itinerary, and I fell in love with the country. From the island vibes of Koh Samui, to the many temples scattered throughout Chiang Mai, to the metropolitan atmosphere of Bangkok, Thailand far exceeded my expectations.
There was so much to do and see that the ten days which were earmarked for the trip weren’t nearly enough. Yet my friend Sasha and I were ambitious enough to travel to areas in north, south, and central Thailand, and we noticed differences between the areas.
If you like the idea of being on an island, then you might want to consider island hopping, but make sure that you designate most or all of the trip for the islands instead of trying to conquer areas on the mainland as well. Consider visiting Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Chang, Phuket, Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Kood, etc.
Here’s a link to an article which describes the Thai islands in a bit more detail: https://www.roughguides.com/article/best-thailand-islands/
When we were on Koh Samui, we drove around the island (which took all of an hour), which was a bit of a challenge since Thai residents drive on the left side of the road, and the traffic is rather haphazard. We spent time on the beach, indulged in fresh seafood, got massages, and relaxed.
After four nights on Koh Samui, it was off to Chiang Mai, where we visited a number of Buddhist temples. As someone who identifies as a Buddhist, I immensely enjoyed honoring the Thai temples and praying to Buddha. Evidently there are over 300 Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai. A word of warning though: Do NOT wear anything with Buddha’s image, such as a t-shirt. Thai people take honoring Buddha very seriously, and if you are seen using Buddha’s image as decoration, you could be arrested and thrown in jail!
While in Chiang Mai, we also spent a half day at Kanta Elephant Sanctuary, where we fed and bathed the elephants. It was a tremendous experience and one which I highly recommend. Another activity which we found ourselves doing quite a bit of was shopping, which was surprising since shopping isn’t exactly one of my favorite activities. However, it is quite an experience to visit the night markets, not just for the souvenirs, but also for the sensory experience. The sounds, the sights, the aromas of Chiang Mai will surround you in such a way that you won’t mind so much that you are sweating through your clothing in the sweltering humidity and heat.
Last stop was Bangkok, where we spent two nights (“two nights in Bangkok”…I know, it’s supposed to be one night…) consuming fantastic food, visiting more temples, the Golden Palace, and getting fantastic massages at Perception Blind Massage. During the earlier part of our Thailand trip, we had made the mistake of going to two different massage places (one right on the beach while in Koh Samui, and the other in Chiang Mai) which were cheaper, but the masseuses were of questionable skill, and the massages were NOT good. But Perception Blind Massage in Bangkok (800 baht for 60 minutes, which is about $28) and Natural Wing Spa on Koh Samui were exceptional and well worth the extra expense.
A Thailand vacation is very reasonable on the pocketbook, so you will be able to explore the country in many different ways without breaking the bank. Typical dishes in most restaurants run around 50 to 80 baht ($1.70 to $2.70 right now), and a GOOD massage will run about 800 baht ($27). Hotels are also very reasonably priced, with a 5 star hotel in Bangkok averaging about $90 per night.
I’ve had a fixation with beach-themed bathrooms for over a decade now, and love using shells and beach-themed décor as fun accents to remind me of the ocean and the beach. When I moved to a new residence this past January, I decided to really have fun with the beach theme, and I took it to the extreme.
One of the features I have displayed in my bathroom is a collection of clear containers which hold sand and shells from different beaches I have visited. Included in this collection are sand and shell samples from Hawaii, Costa Rica, Bali, Thailand and the Maldives. Whenever I look at my collection, I am transported back to those magical destinations which captured my heart and spirit.
Whenever I feel like escaping to an island getaway, but I am stuck in Los Angeles, I’ll take a bubble bath while surrounded by my sand and shell collection, lit candles, and starfish lights. It’s a wonderful way for me to recharge and to surround myself with reminders of my favorite terrain. I also love the fact that I finally have a full bathtub in my bathroom after 20 years of having shower stalls. Whenever my schedule allows, I try to take a relaxing bath, which beats taking a quick shower any day.
Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.
Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”
What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.
Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.
My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.
Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.
In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.
I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.
For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.
For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.
I found this article to be rather amusing, which is why I am sharing it on my blog site. Of course public urination is a nuisance worldwide, but I love the fact that Parisians have responded to the issue by providing volume loaded individuals with pissing pots!
I am willing to bet that a fair portion of the millenial generation finds it difficult to read a plain map. Sure, they can look at a navigation screen which continues to re-center and process information to ensure that they will get to their desired destination, but what would happen if a paper map was unfolded in front of them, and they were put to task to find out how to go from point A to point B only by reading the map?
I remember using Thomas Guides, those large spiral bound collections of maps which yielded detailed geography within large metropolitan areas. I always had a Thomas Guide tucked away in my trunk at all times, so that I would be able to reference it in case I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town. However, without some sense of direction, some sense of where my home, or some recognizable geographic reference, was, a Thomas Guide would have just been a jumble of confusing roads. In stark contrast, with GPS navigation apps, all I have to do is select “HOME” on my trusty navigation system and allow it to guide me, without having any clue to where “home” is.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the technology which GPS navigation affords, especially when it can factor in traffic flow and estimate time of arrival. But I think it’s tragic that an unavoidable dumbing down of our society has also occurred as a result of GPS technology. What should be an essential survival skill, namely, reading a map, has been largely lost. I still run into people who don’t have the slightest clue of north, south, east, west, and whose lack of spatial knowledge is being coddled by computer programs which do the thinking for them.
I do think that when it comes to short distances within an area, especially if one is walking from point A to point B versus driving, there is some spatial mapping and learning which occurs. However, longer distances with numerous circuitous navigation paths are best handled with forfeiting complete control to the navigation stream without really processing what turns have been made, etc. One prime example I have is a destination about 50 miles away from me which I must drive to each month, which also happens to be quite tricky to get to, because it is nestled deep in the next county, hidden from major highways. I rarely repeat a route to this destination, thanks to the fact that Waze factors in traffic flow, and puts me on the most complicated navigation paths. Waze wasn’t working on one of those days, and I honestly couldn’t think of how to get to my destination! I ended up plugging the address into my vehicle’s GPS, and was able to get to my destination. I had given in to Waze to show me the way, but hadn’t processed enough on my own to map out my route unassisted.