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Oh, my monthly roundups. They are so ridiculously out of sync with real time now (this post is basically one year late, ha ha) that I recently considered axing the series, but I decided to play catch up instead — so brace yourself for a couple of these coming up! However, now that I’m writing on multiple timelines they do serve as a nice roadmap of my archives for those who want to follow my travels chronologically.

Apologies for the delay, but I suppose better is late than never… right? 😛

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Looking back (way way back, at this point!) this was just one of my favorite months ever. Frankly, none of these travels felt wildly exotic — I was exploring my own backyard, in a way, of my adopted part-time home in Thailand. But I got to travel with some of my favorite people, discover new corners of one of my favorite places, and mostly enjoy the fruits of seeds I planted here in Thailand years ago — a close-knit circle of friends, exciting professional opportunities, and an island I love to come home to.

Where I’ve Been

• Two nights on my Thailand Wine Tour

• Three nights in Bangkok

• Three nights in Hua Hin

• Two nights in Khao Sok

• Seventeen nights on Koh Tao

Khao Yai Travel Blog

Highlights

• Hostel highs! We kicked off our wine trip with a night on Khao San Road, where I discovered an awesome new hostel. I’m so excited to have a great place to recommend in Bangkok’s backpacker epicenter! It’s called Nitan Hostel (we booked through Airbnb so we could use my $35 discount code) and we managed to fill a ten person dorm, essentially making it a private room.

• All the wine! My Thailand Wine Tour was an absolute victory. Huzzah. It was my favorite trip I’ve taken in a long time — a challenge and adventure to plan, and unbelievably rewarding to execute. I’m blessed with the most amazing group of friends and getting to explore a totally new destination together in a country we call home (at least part-time, in my case!) is a memory I’ll treasure. Especially a destination as beautiful and peaceful as this one. All three wineries were totally unique and lovable in their own ways. Granmonte was so special for the beautiful grounds, amazing restaurant, and the fact that it’s a family business helmed by a woman. PB Valley was a legend for letting us pick our own grapes! And Alcidini was a crazy cute family run vineyard with an emphasis on organic. And again, Airbnb killed it — we loved kicking back in our enormous rental house in the countryside.

• Our skyline suite! A few hectic days in Bangkok were made heavenly by the fact that we had a plush suite at the Amari Watergate to call home — considering we had fourteen friends (!) in Bangkok at the time, it provided the perfect ground zero for our group, especially when we learned that we’d accidentally planned a birthday bar crawl on the holiest Buddhist day of the year, when alcohol sales are banned — oops. Hotel suite party it is!

• Spa time! It’s no secret that I love me some spa sessions, and Bangkok was no exception. I treated Janine and I to a spa package at the Breeze Spa in Bangkok and I am now their most loyal fan ever. Mango sticky rice fans, treat yourself to the mango sticky rice scrub — I’m now hooked on the stuff from the spa’s gift shop and feel like I’m eating dessert every time I take a shower.

• Bangkok eats! As always, a combo of new discoveries and old classics. This time it was a big group dinner at Peppina, a chic pizza restaurant I’d long been dying to try, and a much-anticipated ice cream at Coldstone, a serious guilty please from the US with outposts in Bangkok.

• Beach bumming! Ian and I were the worst tourists ever in Hua Hin and I didn’t care — we had the most adorbs hotel ever to hang in. The beach there was unlike any other I’ve seen in Thailand, with wild waves and a strong salty smell that reminds me of the beaches of my childhood. This charming mainland beach city felt like a different country from the sultry tropical island we live on — and we loved it!

• ….and more win! Hua Hin Hills was the most scenic vineyard yet. Now that I’ve got four Thai wineries under my belt, I think I’ll have to just keep going until I hit them all.

• Khao Freakin’ Sok! This Thai National Park has been top-of-my list for a while now, and so I couldn’t jump out of my seat fast enough to accept when Elephant Hills, Thailand’s first luxury tented camp, reached out to invite me there. Janine and I played with elephants, wore matching ranger shirts, slept in a tent floating on a lake, learned the fascinating history of the park, and relished the rare joy of being out of cell service. It was an awesome little friend-cation too.

• Enjoying life back on Koh Tao! It’s easy to fall into a routine of working obsessively when I get back to Koh Tao after a trip, but if there’s one thing that can peel me away from my laptop it’s a yoga class. Over one fabulous weekend, I did back to back weekend workshops — an acro afternoon at Grounded followed by a day of inversions at Ocean Sound. Double score!

• Tackling a new hike! After one previous failed attempt, this was the month I finally conquered the Dusit Buncha route. Considering we had no directions and were basically feeling our way through the jungle, it was an enormous accomplishment! And this reminds me, I need to hit that trail again soon…

• Trapeze in the breeze! Another fun physical challenge this month? Getting back on the trapeze rig. I had so much fun swinging among the palm trees…

• Boozin’ on the beach! Always one of my favorite activities. Sadly, the amazing establishment that served actual craft cocktails (as opposed to crappy piña coladas) on the beach during the day was short-lived on Koh Tao — but we really enjoyed it while it lasted.

• St Paddy’s Day! It’s always a super-fun holiday on Koh Tao, and last year was no exception.

• House of Cards! Yes, the release of a new season of House of Cards was one of the highlights of my month. What is the purpose of renting a long-term apartment with a couch if not to binge-watch an entire Netflix series upon it?

Bangkok Travel Blog

Lowlights and Lessons

• Our wine trip driver. Seriously, he was hilariously bad. He missed every turn, ignored all our Google Maps traffic warnings, and put us hours behind schedule. But he was a pretty good sport about having a dozen rowdy farang in the van, so we gave him a big tip despite our dozens of internal eyerolls.

• Rooftop bar rules. Nothing annoys me more than Bangkok’s obsession with footwear. Our group was turned away from a rooftop bar because a few of the crew were wearing stylish dress Havaianas, while frumpy looking tourists wearing Crocs were ushered right in because their toes were covered. Hello, is this the fashion police? I’d like to report a crime against HUMANITY!

• Janine’s birthday disaster (turned not-at-all-disaster). Yes, we were bummed when we discovered we’d planned a massive birthday bar crawl for Thailand’s one single day of no alcohol sales. Ha ha. But it turned out beautifully — we stocked up on booze the day before and had a tipsy night of cake and champagne in our hotel suite instead. More quality time together, less overpriced cocktails in bars, and more hours in our sweet suite? It ended up a massive win in my book. Oops — I guess that’s not really a lowlight.

• Getting my Brazilian visa. O. M. G. You guys. That was a mission! I’ve always had empathy for those who have to fight through red tape to nab a visa for every country they want to travel to before, but now I have SERIOUS RESPECT for those people. I couldn’t believe the amount of paperwork (and, um, money) that I had to compile and confusion I had to work through in order to prepare my application. And I was shocked by the interrogation I received at the embassy in Bangkok when I went to submit it! When I realized I had forgotten to copy my passport and politely asked for a copy, I seriously thought my application might be denied based on the vitriolic response I received. Obrigada, Brazil, for letting me in!

• Getting to Hua Hin. Ha ha, yeah we messed up — we just rocked up to the train station expecting to waltz into a second class train seat and found that the only remaining tickets were for third class wooden benches. The next five hours were a hazy hell of profuse sweat, sore bums and jostling our belongings around to make room for an ever-increasing crush of humans. I’ve enjoyed the third class train ticket in Thailand before, but it’s a strict no-go for me from here forward for rides of more than two hours.

• Missing the wine bus in Hua Hin. Then leaving my wine in Hua Hin. Ha ha, we had some vino-related snafus in Hua Hin. First, we missed the shuttle to Hua Hin Hills vineyard, forcing us to pay for a more expensive private taxi (not the biggest deal ever). Then I left my three new bottles of wine at our hotel before heading to the train station, forcing me to pay to have them shipped to Koh Tao (that hurt a little.) Frankly, I think I was starting to get stressed about my work backlog at this point in the trip and so I was letting little things get to me. Ah well, all’s well that ends… soaked in wine.

• Leaving Khao Sok. Oh, how I wish we’d had one more night at Rainforest Camp! Then, that trip truly would have been perfect.

Hua Hin Travel Blog

LOLs

“Because France.” Oh, how we still laugh about this! At Granmonte Winery, our adorable young guide was making an impressive effort to give the vineyard tour in two languages.

However, as one point, she became exasperated trying to explain why their sparkling wine product could not be called champagne, and after stammering a bit finally gave up and spat out, “…because France.” Everyone onboard, including the guide herself, doubled over with laugher and “because France” has become our crew’s catchphrase for “ugh, well, you know and I know you know, so why bother explaining it” ever since.

Best and Worst Beds of the Month

Best: I’m pretty torn — our chic beachside design hotel in Hua Hin or our barefoot luxury floating tent in Khao Sok? Both basically blew my mind.

Worst: Didn’t have a bad one — what a blessing!

Koh Tao Travel Blog

Best and Worst Meals of the Month

Best: Vincotto. Can’t beat a three-course meal at a winery topped off with grape cheesecake. You just can’t. (Although the next day’s lunch at a castle in Khao Yai definitely made an effort to.) Come to think of it, homemade dinner prepared by friends in our Airbnb didn’t suck either. Basically, we ate well that weekend.

Worst: Again, I can’t remember anything that stands out as unpleasant. Dang, it was a great month!

Spending

I have to say, this was a bargain of a month, all things considered. The wine weekend was one of the cheapest trips I’ve ever planned to begin with, and when it came time to split all the bills my friends were kind enough to surprise me by paying for my share as a thank you. How sweet is that?

And the rest of my trips were based off invitations from local hotels and tour groups, which made them very affordable, though I did pay for an extra night in Hua Hin and some spa treatments and meals there. My biggest splurges? My Brazilian Visa — about $250, all in — and our wine tasting and purchasing day in Hua Hin, which came to a whopping $115. Oops. But overall, the entire month of non-business related expenses came to less than $2,500USD. I really can’t complain about that.

The biggest thing I had to get used to for this entire season in Thailand was paying rent when I wasn’t in my apartment. After years of being pretty fully nomadic, it felt weird to leave for weeks at a time and see my rent back on Koh Tao in my budget every day — but it was all worth it when I’d arrive back on the island to home sweet home!

Koh Tao Travel Blog

Saving

It was a very slow month! Thank goodness for the regular income sources (affiliates, display ads, monthly ambassadorship payments) that keep me afloat when campaigns are sparse. Thanks to my frugal spending for the month — especially considering how many adventures I had! — it evened out and I still ended up in the black, even adding in my considerable business expenses.

Health and Fitness

Could have been worse, could have been better! While traveling I squeezed in a few gym sessions in Bangkok and Hua Hin, and Janine and I went hiking in Khao Sok as part of our tour. Other than that, I took it easy on the road and got back into my regular routine as soon as we were back on Koh Tao.

What Was Next

A low-key final month on Koh Tao and Koh Samui… and then off to Brazil!

Khao Sok Travel Blog

Thanks for looking (way!) back over my shoulder with me.

Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.

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24 Comments...
  • Dominique
    April 11 2017

    Yay, I’m happy the monthly roundups are making a comeback. I consult your roundups when I’m planning trips as well, just to see which locations you visited and how many days you stayed! Which month was month 59? April?
    Dominique recently posted..Thalassery – An Indian Hindu Wedding

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Yes, I often find myself wondering the exact itinerary (and how many nights they spent where!) when I’m reading another blogger’s posts! So these roundups aren’t one exact calendar month… when I started them they were always the 9th to the 9th — the first day I left New York! — but I tried to keep destinations clumped together so wasn’t always super strict with it and so now it’s a big jumbled mess. Lol!

  • Cate
    April 11 2017

    Yay a roundup! I love these! Looks like a great month, filled with everything one can want: friends, food, beach, jungle, and wine! I didn’t even know Thailand had winery’s until I read your posts about them lol
    Cate recently posted..The Blues of the World: A Photo Essay

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      I’m honored to have shared that with the world 😉

  • I have the hardest time keeping up with your timeline as it is, lol (uh…what month is this again?). And I can’t say this made it any easier for me! Regardless, I enjoyed reading about elephants and lake huts!
    Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate recently posted..The Spice Island 101: Planning a Trip to Grenada

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Well perhaps not helpful for those reading right now, but I get a surprising number of emails and messages from people reading through my entire archives (kudos to them, it’s huge!) and I figure these are a great launch-pad to follow my journey from the start 🙂 My annual round-ups also pull all the pieces together, I hope!

  • Russianblogger
    April 12 2017

    So fun, I’m currently visiting Krabi in Thailand! Which places are on your list to visit in Brazil?

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Hey there! Check out my destinations page — it outlines every city I visited in Brazil, and links to the posts on the subject!

  • Grape cheesecake? Interesting!
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..US National Parks Photos

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Absolutely delicious! And the perfect touch for a winery 😉

  • Nicole
    April 12 2017

    Nice to know about your recent experiences. Thailand is a wonderful country with amazing nature, wonderful culture, and delicious foods. Seems like you have some of your best days in Thailand!
    Nicole recently posted..5 Best Places For Summer Vacation Around Europe

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      I absolutely do. It’s the hardest place to leave!

  • Katie
    April 12 2017

    Yay another monthly round up! Love reading about what you have been up to, even if it is a year ago!

    Wineries in Thailand sounds pretty awesome! Will have to check them out 🙂 The suite in Bangkok sounds AMAZING!

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Thank you Katie! I really appreciate hearing that when the blogger guilt hits hard 😉

  • Jo-Anne the crazy lady
    April 12 2017

    I came, I read and I liked now I leave
    Jo-Anne the crazy lady recently posted..Pain and Exercise & 21 Days till a break

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      I love it Jo-Anne 😉

  • Marni
    April 14 2017

    Wine makes everything better! I love your monthly round ups, even when they are delayed.

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Thanks Marni! You guys know how to make a guilty blogger feel better 🙂

  • Nadine
    April 15 2017

    I know you’ve been thinking about getting rid of this series, but I have to say, I love reading these posts! Thanks for continuing to write them, even if you DO have to go back in time for them.

    (I also have to say- I love that House of Cards made your highlights! And that’s one reason your posts are great- you write about travel, but you also give us a balanced look at your life). 🙂
    Nadine recently posted..Things that surprised me about the Camino de Santiago

    • Alex
      April 18 2017

      Ha, thanks Nadine! I sometimes hesitate before posting about non-travel related stuff but then I remember feedback like this, which I do get all the time! I love sharing it all with you guys.

  • Velysia Zhang
    April 20 2017

    Wow! So much fun, looks like you’re having loads of fun fun as well. It makes me want to try living in Koh Tao 🙂
    Velysia Zhang recently posted..A Change in My Life

    • Alex
      April 21 2017

      Clearly, I give that idea two big thumbs up 🙂

  • Julia Nix
    April 30 2017

    Do you have any accomodation room weakness? For me, it’s the rainshower head. I just love it. And a bathroom (that is unique,and chic looking) I mean,I would just book a hotel room just because the shower/bathroom is inviting. hahaha.

    • Alex
      May 11 2017

      I do love some good toiletries 🙂 I always think it’s a treat to use a nice hotel lotion or shampoo — which actually are somewhat rare in Southeast Asia!

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