Life of a Budget Traveler

DSCN2384After ten weeks in India, my time in Thailand feels even more so like vacation, and while Hannah's boyfriend is here visiting her, I've been able to enjoy the journey of traveling alone. This trip was originally planned as a solo trip, so getting some alone time is beyond wonderful, however I do look forward to having my travel partner back. I really didn't have time to do any kind of research for Thailand, with the exception of asking a few friends for recommendations. I trusted that no matter where I went, it would be perfect. I arrived to Bangkok just as the sun was rising and, exhausted from the journey from India, I collected my bag, exchanged my US dollars to Thai Baht, and searched for the tourist information center in the airport. I asked the friendly Thai man how to get somewhere really pretty for really cheap and, shortly after, I was on my way to paradise. $112 purchased a shuttle to a nearby airport, my flight to Surat Thani, an overnight stay in a beautiful bungalow tucked away in the jungle, plus a ferry ride to Koh Phangan. After being in dirty, broken hotel rooms in India for the past ten weeks, I was amazed at the bungalow I was provided. Back porch right on the river, air conditioning, mini fridge, a flushing toilet and real shower, and the softest sheets I have laid on since I left home in December. (The little things, ya know?!) I felt I could have stayed their forever, but the next morning I caught my ferry to Koh Phangan and was ready to lounge on the beach.

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Arriving to the port of the island, I was overwhelmed by the locals offering me handbills to parties, discounts for yoga courses, and a plethora of options for budget accommodations. The island is famous for their full moon parties, and since the full moon had just happened, it was a ghost town. I found a bed in a hostel for only $3 a night, and since the island was quiet, I ended up getting the entire dorm room to myself. I spent only two days in Koh Phangan, doing yoga in the sand, reading my book, and researching for further travels through Thailand. I found that everything in Thailand is quite expensive, so I planned out my meals and my spending, so I could avoid going over my budget. I limited myself to purchasing only one meal per day and filling up on the local produce purchased from the market instead, I avoided the desire to drink Changs and fancy cocktails on the beach, and made sure that if I wanted to do anything I walked, instead of taking a tuk tuk or taxi.

DSCN2400~2 From Koh Phangan, I moved to Krabi and very quickly realized that the Andaman side of Thailand is far superior in beauty from the gulf side. The beaches and islands were filled with jungled mountains, crazy rock formations, and exotic trails for nature-enthusiasts such as myself. After a lot of research, I was happy to find a cheap bungalow to stay at for $4 a night and as I was pulling into Krabi town, I got online to check for directions to the spot. It was just as a major thunderstorm rolled in that I realized I had to take a long tail boat from Ao Nang beach to Tonsai, where I would find my bungalow, so when the bus driver dropped me off at the boat dock, I purchased a ticket, unsure of what I was getting myself into. It was pouring rain and I stood on the sandy beach realizing that I had to wade through the ocean to get to the boat. Everything I own, including my electronics, were strapped to back as I watched the other passengers wading through waste deep water with ocean waves knocking them into the stormy sea. Fuck this, I thought, and turned right around to find somewhere cheap to stay on the mainland! I was drenched from the storm, but quickly found a very lovely place to call home for the day. Krabi was a very funky, very beautiful beach town, filled with restaurants, massage salons, beach shops, and live music on every street corner. I took small excursions to some close islands to admire the bluest waters, the greenest jungles, and some really astounding karst sceneries.

Knowing that I only had a short time to spare for the island life, I quickly ventured to Ko Phi Phi, whichDSCN2409 undoubtedly had the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The monsoon rains were consistent in my time on the islands, with breaks for sunshine in the afternoons, and I loved it! Lightening filled the skies at night, and made for quiet, wet mornings. I spent my days weaving through the alleyways filled with shops and bars. During the day, most of the bars repetitively played Bob Marley, and at night, depending on the atmosphere, it switched to early 90s music, like Tony Braxton, or else electronic music for the kids that were there solely for the party. It was quite humorous to watch, really. My beach-bum days were pretty non-existent in Ko Phi Phi, as I trekked that island for hours each day until it was too dark and too rainy for me to do anything besides reside to the hostel. One morning, I walked through the twists and turns of the streets, through lavish resorts, along simple bungalows, and to quaint villages. DSCN2424~2I started following this sign that read, "view-point" and trekked through the muddy roads, with no one around except myself and a jungle of mosquitos. I was sometimes thigh deep in the jungle brush, slipping and sliding in the fresh mud, but stumbled upon a view-point that seemed only possible on the cover of a travel magazine. What is this magical place?! There were tourists everywhere, taking photos and sappin' in the beauty. Very quickly I noticed the lovely paved path that was a direct route from the main part of town. (Yes, I took that way down, but enjoyed the adventure of getting there - with the exception of the bug bites!).

There were a lot of islands left unexplored based off my lack of time, and my eagerness to get north and get more involved in my trainings. I came to Thailand for the massage and yoga courses and I was eager to get back to work! Of course I took the cheapest route to get from the islands in the south to the mountains in the north, so this required a ferry, to a taxi, to a shared van, to another taxi, to a bus, to a taxi, to a flight, to a taxi, to walking lost, to finally finding my guesthouse in Chaing Mai. Now these taxis that I speak of aren't the yellow cabs with the lights on the roof. The taxis are pickup trucks with two bucket seats lining the opposite sides of the truck bed, loaded with travelers, all going in very different directions. In one of the many rides that evening, a Swiss girl realized that she had left her cell phone at the previous taxi stand. We banged on the back window to get our driver to pull over...and he did...but he was pissed. He initially refused to turn around and go back the MILE that he drove, but we begged enough that he was willing to turn around. We couldn't have expected what would happen, but as he got back into the driver's seat, he turned on his engine a screeched out of his parking spot, tossing the four of us all over the truck. He drove so fast, we were all sure he was going to kill us. We toppled over each other as he slammed on his breaks to throw us towards the front, then set full force on the gas pedal to throw us to the back, and turned the corners so sharp, it's amazing that no one flew out of that bed. She finally retrieved her phone, and he drove erratically back to where we would catch our bus. I really don't think I've ever been so terrified in a car in my entire life...and I tend to be pretty paranoid in vehicles as it is!

We made it alive to our bus and hopped on with a ten hour journey ahead. I slept like shit, so when the bus arrived to Bangkok at 4am and the bus lights flickered on so abruptly, I wasn't pleased with the bus conductor walking down the aisle shoving everyone to wake up and get off the bus. I found a taxi driver relatively easy, which was a blessing as a solo female in downtown Bangkok at four in the morning, but he had more energy than I could handle. He spoke a hundred miles a minute the entire ride to the airport, with myself only being able to understand half of it. "Bangkok crazy. Chaing Mai gooooooooood. You have boyfriend? You look Scandinavian? You get rich boyfriend who treats you gooooooooood. People come to Thailand for party. But you miss party. Party's over. I have four sons. One wife."  My lack of responses didn't slow this man down, all in the mean time I was hoping I could my hands on whatever he took so I could get that kind of energy!! Haggard, I arrived to Don Muang airport and jumped from booth to booth asking for the cheapest and earliest flight to Chaing Mai. I lucked out pretty quickly, finding a flight for $22 that was leaving in forty minutes. I purchased the ticket, went through security, and as I got to my gate, they started boarding the plane! I fell asleep immediately as I sat in my seat, and as if I only blinked my eyes, we had landed in Chaing Mai.

This will be my home-base in Thailand as I take a 60 hour Thai Massage Course, plus continue my yoga trainings, and study postural alignment techniques. It's certainly a hub for healers, such as myself and I'm grateful to be here to advance my skillset and meet other like-minded individuals.