My Five Day Vacation in Thailand: Krabi and Ko Puh

food, lifestyle, Thailand, travel

Throughout October I am featuring Memory Monday. A throwback to past travel posts. No. 3 features a video after my quick vacation to visit ESL teacher friends in Thailand. What a life changing trip!

After my contract in South Korea ended, I went to visit some friends in Krabi, Thailand. We spent five days touring their town, riding scooters across the region, relaxing on the beaches in Ao Nang and Ko Puh, and finished the trip with a short layover in Bangkok. I don’t think this video gives justice to the beauty of the country and I surely will return to further explore this majestic landscape.

I wish I had pictures of the incredible dishes we sampled while in Thailand. From kaeng keow wan (sweet green curry) to Massaman, the food alone is worth the trip.

Enjoy the footage and let me know what you think!

Vista point in Ao Nang, Thailand

A view of Railay Beach between Krabi and Ao Nang

Advertisements

Now This is What I Call Travel! How to Survive Riding on Top of a Bus in the Philippines

Philippines, travel

Throughout October I am featuring Memory Monday. A throwback to past travel posts. No. 2 features my summer vacation trip to Palawan in the Philippines. Although our final destination ended up being quite different than what we expected, the overall trip was a success. The Philippines offers incredible beauty, friendly people, and some delicious food.

Who says $5 can’t buy you any thrilling adventure? As I found myself supplanted atop a Filipino bus, dangerously comfortable on this artistically bold transport hurling through the remote highways of Palawan in the Philippines, life could not have been any better. To the locals, it is an everyday occurrence. I defiantly told the driver, er, the man in the tank top and cut off shorts, I would like to sit on the roof of the bus for the upcoming four-hour trip. “Go ahead,” he says without a second glance. Apparently not as big of a deal to a Filipino, I still proudly climbed the ladder onto the metal roof and threw down my bag next to a crate of toilet paper and a large box of soap. I would soon find out this was a trip much longer than previously anticipated.

Image

My travel buddy Tim and I sipped San Miguel’s and Red Horse beer (both local Philippines products), ate fresh fruit, and chatted up locals to pass the time. Our departure was scheduled for noon. However, we would soon find out how Filipino travel works. As I am now somewhat of a seasoned pro on Filipino travel, the safer bet is to be incredibly patient and realize that the vehicle will leave once it is packed full of paying customers. So, bring a book, drink a local beverage, and take in the surrounding flavors of the Philippines.

Image

Another good tip is to bring a couple packs of cigarettes on the journey. I personally don’t smoke but found out that Filipino males love two things: foreign cigarettes and Bon Jovi. Mention the fact that you are from the U.S.A and you might have a friend for the duration of the journey. Also, take advantage of the roadside eateries and vendors. For two USD, 100 PHP, I was able to enjoy pancit (a noodle dish with vegetables and chicken) and a drink. From the perch of my seat, I would just hand down my bills and reach out for the delicious food in return.  I definitely recommend having a packed meal or small bills in order to buy snacks at the small markets because the length of the trip may be much longer than expected.

Image

Above all else, remember to relax and embrace the local way of traveling. This may not be the best way to travel for most people, but it was truly an unforgettable travel moment for both Tim and myself. The scenery is majestic and the accompanying passengers, albeit timid at first, certainly becoming a great source of information and extremely friendly when all is said and done.

Image

What are some of your best travel experiences? Share them below. I would love to hear about any wacky or exciting overland trips from your travels.

Colombian Road Trip! Off the Beaten Path in Tayrona National Park

lifestyle, travel

Throughout October I am featuring Memory Monday. A throwback to past travel posts. No. 1 features a road trip that I took with some friends while volunteering with Emerging Voices and IVHQ in Cartagena, Colombia. 

I needed a weekend out of Cartagena. I also needed a break from the confines of our volunteer house. As the minority group of the volunteer clan, an adventure was needed to explore and raucously introduce Colombia to some North American male citizens. Relax, Mom and Dad. Only the clean material makes this blog! Barry, Eliot and I left Cartagena by bus in the afternoon with a destination of Tanganga, Colombia and the close by, majestic locale of Tayrona National Park. The plan was to stay in Tanganga overnight and then hike through Tayrona on Saturday morning. After a great first night, including the accommodations at the Davinga Hostel, and despite the forewarned and early construction wake up call, we happily ventured to Santa Marta to catch a bus to the park.
The entrance for foreigners is about $17 USD.

 The entrance for foreigners is about $17 USD.

Once inside Tayrona, we caught a quick ride about a 1/4 of the way into the park and began our three mile trek to an unknown campsite. We experienced breathtaking vistas and aqua-hued Caribbean Sea landscapes for much of that first day – which made the trek much more enjoyable. There were various campsites and small restaurants where we were able to stop and replenish our water as the sun beat down on us at midday. After two and a half hours we finally arrived at the Cabo San Lucas campsite and backpacker haven.

Tayrona National Park

For $10 we each had a dirt covered hammock for the night and a fantastic place to take in a swim. The atmosphere was relaxed despite the small population of Colombians and international backpackers scattered throughout tents, hammocks, and small huts. The night was uneventful except for the wild horses and donkeys running through the aforementioned sleeping situation. Eliot, who previously coined his personal slogan “Yo soy un burro” was woken up in the middle of the night by a donkey looking for some late night loving.

    Eliot loves the donkeys. It's a mutual feeling.
Eliot loves the donkeys. It’s a mutual feeling.

Sunday morning was an extremely difficult day in which we knew would be long, but never envisioned the technical hike taking four hours. We decided to take a different path this time around to a different exit within the park. Instead of a calm, leisurely stroll along beaches and crystal clear water, our path consisted of 1,000 meter vertical changes and gigantic boulders that we had to scale by hardened efforts. My clothes contained as much sweat as if I had taken a dip in the ocean. My hamstrings and quads felt like they would burst. Climb after climb our trek felt like it would never end. However, after the entire morning’s hike and multiple pit stops we finally arrived at the other exit and gulped down cold bottles of water without a care in the world.
Almost at the end of our 4 mile trek.

Almost at the end of our 4 mile trek.

Two more buses, a taxi ride, and five hours later, we maxed out our Colombian road trip experience. To celebrate our return “home” to Cartagena, we grabbed a cold Aguila beer and downed slices of local pizza while our street in Barrio Crespo, as content as the three of us on a Sunday evening, sighed a relief as the weekend was complete.

Catching up on some z's to Tanganga.

Looks like I am at peace with the world after a visit to Tayrona National Park.

A Football Weekend in Manchester

lifestyle, travel

The beautiful thing about backpacking in Europe is the sheer proximity of countries and emblematic cities. All within a bus, train or plane ride – and with some creative planning – the opportunities to cost effectively travel those distances. One constant reminder that has always been in my mind since studying abroad in Spain in 2008 has been exactly that. Especially compared to the travel costs and accommodation options in the United States. When the chance to visit a truly historical and football crazed city (with TWO teams in the English Premier League) came my way, you can bet I did not hesitate one bit to make that trip!

Manchester, England is home to two of the most famous football clubs in the world – Manchester United and Manchester City. My local contacts and family friends that have been fans of either of these teams for their entire lives will tell you that the city itself has a severe superiority complex about which side is the true Manchester team. United encompassing fans of a higher class in the city itself, along with a massive base of fans from outside the municipality, and City being the bluer collar, edgier base. Especially when looking back at the last twenty to thirty years of the successes, and lack thereof, for both sides. United being the more dominant team over the course of three decades, as City has supplanted them in recent years due to new ownership. However, that is an entirely different subject.

Outside the stadium and fan shop entrance.

Outside the stadium and fan shop entrance at Old Trafford!

The complex contains the first team stadium with the Academy grounds linked by bridge.

Manchester City’s complex contains the first team stadium with the Academy grounds linked by bridge.                                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My weekend in Manchester was all about diving into the local football scene and experiencing the city as a traveling fan. Luckily, as mentioned earlier, the opportunity to visit the city and attend an English Premier League game, ironically enough in an adjacent town, was incredibly special. The chance to witness my first ever game in England at the Stoke City vs. Bournemouth match. United was at home over the weekend, but for those that are not privy to the difficulty in obtaining tickets (especially at an affordable price), my adventures in Manchester were limited to visiting the stadiums, surrounding pubs and fan shops. Plus the beauty of England as a footballing culture is that there are first-class teams all across the country.

Additional highlights in Manchester as a traveling football fan:

National Football Museum – http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/

Manchester United and Old Trafford – http://www.manutd.com/en/Visit-Old-Trafford.aspx

Manchester City and Etihad Campus – https://www.mcfc.com/the-club/etihad-campus-development

National Football Museum Entrance

The entrance is free and completely worth a visit if you are a fan of the sport.

Luckily for me Stoke-on-Trent was a speedy, yet serene train ride away and showed me a whole other side to the diaspora that is English football. Stoke another working class town with strong ties to the manufacturing industry, where the diehard fans spend their hard earned dollars to attend games every week, despite not having a tenth of the successes (in terms of trophies and league championships) that the neighboring football giants have procured over the course of history. Nevertheless, as I made my way up a winding, tree laden path away from the cold cobblestone streets below to the Britannia Stadium, home of Stoke City FC, the locals joined me in soaking up the atmosphere and what little sunshine was peaking its way through the clouds early that afternoon.

Over the past year I had the privilege of working directly with the Stoke City FC Academy coaches and staff. This is how I find myself visiting England to watch a home match for the club. And the afternoon was truly an unforgettable experience for me as I joined one of the coaches in the stands to enjoy a stressful, albeit victorious game for the home side. Personally, I think I was the good luck charm as this was their first win of the season! A massive thanks for the hospitality from the professional staff at the club during my visit.

All smiles after a 2-1 Stoke City victory at the Britannia Stadium.

All smiles after a 2-1 Stoke City victory at the Britannia Stadium.

One interesting side note is that fans can purchase and consume alcohol within the stadium (something not allowed in Spain), but cannot bring it into the stands to drink. And guess what? Their stands were almost spotless after the game. Imagine that as a fan in the United States. Half of the pull of the American entertainment that is called professional sporting events is the fact that it is a medium fueled by socializing, and if you choose, the chance to imbibe in a local, hop infused beverage – if not something stronger.

The home of Stoke City FC is set above the town and away from the surrounding neighborhoods.

The home of Stoke City FC is set above the town and away from the surrounding neighborhoods.

 

 

The magnificence of the world’s beautiful game is that there is non-stop play and a goal can happen in an instant. If you blink, and you miss a beat, or a pass, it could change the outcome of the entire game. So, fans are glued in their seats watching all the action. Not hanging out in a swimming pool with an umbrella drink beyond the grandstands. But, I digress.

Of course, as I continue to travel chasing sport, there are other events that capture the essence of a city, or an entire nation, while I am there locally. Particularly during that weekend in Manchester for the England vs. Wales Rugby World Cup fixture. This game wasn’t just a Monday Night Football type match-up between two powerhouses. It wasn’t just a game seven of a MLB Championship Series feel. This game was an all out, match of the century, both nations’ pride at stake kind of event. England was the favorite on their home soil with pundits predicting it to be close, but vital for both countries rugby programs. The media hyped this game so much that even I was pumped to watch an entire rugby match for the first time ever.

That being said, I found myself in quite possibly the worst place to watch this epic game. Apparently at Waves bar in Manchester, chosen because it was close to my hotel and I was exhausted from the day, no one with the exception of two other backpackers, five men from Scotland, and a handful of older Brits, gave a flying f*** about the game. Needless to say Wales upset the mighty English side, the Bachelorette party inside the bar continued to pound shots despite the result and everyone went on their way to pretend the loss did not happen. I imagine this was not the best night to be celebrating as an Englishman.

The rest of my time in Manchester was spent walking the city, hopping on metro trains (and sometimes heading in the wrong direction for 45 minutes!), grabbing a drink at the famed Trafford Bar outside the United stadium and navigating my way through the grounds at Old Trafford and the Etihad campus. Despite not actually witnessing a match in Manchester during the weekend, my time was well spent as I covered more than most people would in that span. My feet were seriously happy that I was only in Manchester for three nights. Next time I’ll be sure to pack gel insoles.