Oh, my monthly roundups. They are so ridiculously out of sync with real time now 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! Apologies for the delay, but I suppose better is late than never.
After a deliciously chill couple months, this one kicked off a period of absolute madness again. With one of my best friends visiting from New York and Ian’s parents coming in from Canada, we were determined to craft the perfect itineraries for everyone. Us included! I was thrilled to not only visit a few old favorite domestic destinations, but also to conquer a logistically-difficult camping trip to Khao Yai National Park.
Where I’ve Been
• Two nights on Koh Phangan
• Three nights on Koh Tao
• One night overnight transit
• Two nights in and around Khao Yai National Park
• Three nights in Bangkok
• Seventeen nights on Koh Tao
• Our Koh Phangan weekend! I left obsessed with Charm Beach Resort, my new go-to on my neighboring island. With beachfront massages, a beachfront fitness bootcamp, and a beachfront bar (sensing a theme?) serving the best cocktails I’ve had on the Thai islands, I was in true vacation mode heaven. Leaving my laptop at home on Koh Tao was really fun and liberating, too.
• Showing my friends around Koh Tao. Though the craziest storm of the year waylaid plans for diving and beaching, I had a blast bringing them to my favorite yoga studios, to my trapeze class, and to some of my favorite spas and eateries.
• Getting off Koh Tao when we needed to! For a while there, it was pretty touch and go — see below. Our long day and night in transit was a blur, but it all felt real when we were standing in a field watching two million bats spill out of a cave in Pak Chong.
• So many beautiful moments in Khao Yai National Park. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, from the freedom we felt on the winding drive into the park’s visitor center, the exhilaration of spotting the big-horned deer we ate lunch next to, the joy at the first sight Haew Narok falls, the surprising thrill of the night safari, to the great satisfaction of having pulled off something fairly inaccessible for Western visitors to Thailand. I spent hours and hours and hours planning this trip… and it was magic!
• Using all that knowledge to write a comprehensive tell-all about visiting Khao Yai National Park independently. Professionally, I felt proud to produce a guide that is, in my opinion, more comprehensive than anything else on the internet regarding this beautiful area of Thailand. It was a lot of work to put together, and I was just thrilled to press publish!
• Sweet and simple: extending our visas in Bangkok couldn’t have been smoother thanks to prepping all our paperwork ahead of time and arriving as the doors opened at the immigration office. As we normally have to plan a trip to Koh Samui to do so, getting this regular errand done on an existing trip to Bangkok was crazy convenient.
• Making new Bangkok discoveries in our brief three nights there. While we hit up old classics like the Chatuchak Market and Hemmingways, we also explored new favorites include Supanniga Eating Room restaurant and a whole roster of fun bars in Thonglor. I also ticked a big activity off my Bangkok bucket list: a high-end dinner river cruise down the Chao Phraya.
• Seventeen nights. The novelty of long stretches on Koh Tao never get old. For me, seventeen nights in a row before taking off on my next adventure wasn’t long enough — but compared to my usual calendar chaos, it was a nice break!
• Going off trail. My first attempt at the Dusit Bunch Hike may have technically ended in failure, but it lit a fire under me to get back and nail it again in the future (and I eventually did!)
• Finally checking out Koh Tao Cooking School. Ian’s parents being on the island was just the excuse we needed to finally check out this fun rainy-day option on our home island. I ate so much I pretty much had to be rolled out of the place, but I reasoned I burned off the calories laughing at my own ineptitude in the kitchen. Right?
• Getting back in the water! I so loved my PADI solo diver course with Master Divers and was really grateful for the nudge to get back in the ocean and back in the classroom. It ended up being the first of three courses I’d take this year in Koh Tao — and I can’t stop thinking about what’s next!
• A very happy Valentine’s Day. I took the whole day off, which is rare for me! I made heart-shaped banana cinnamon pancakes for breakfast for Ian and I, and then we set off for the beach and spent the whole day in the sun with friends. That night, I went out for a proper girl’s night with dinner and dancing. We had a blast!
I had turned down the opportunity to attend Trang’s Underwater Wedding Ceremony with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and wasn’t sure if it was the right call — but after such an amazing day, I concluded it was!
Lowlights and Lessons
• The Full Moon Party and I are on a break, I think. There wasn’t anything wrong with the party per se, I just think after three of them I’ve been there and done that. Not that I’m done painting myself neon by any means — I just think I’ll seek out new places to do it.
• Holy weather wow! After a massive storm literally sank one of the piers and washed away the beach on Koh Tao, ferries were cancelled for days and we worried about getting off the island to make it to Khao Yai. In the end our ferry was the first to leave in days, which we cheered for… but it was a rough ride. We all felt seasick, and Ian had the extreme honor of being vomited on by a fellow passenger. Because the ferry was slow and late, we just barely made our overnight train. It was quite the wild ride, but we arrived in Khao Yai more grateful than ever to just be there!
• Hosting guilt. I felt awful when I had to back out of a cooking class in Bangkok and miss other fun in order to work, especially when Ian’s parents were in town. Thankfully, everyone in my life is quite understanding of the fact that self employment can be relentlessly demanding at the most inconvenient of times.
• Another rough ride. This was not our month for smooth transit! After splurging on a flight to Koh Samui to make the trip down to the islands easier for Ian’s parents, we had just about the worst ferry ride I’ve ever experienced to Koh Tao. With the air conditioning on the boat broken, the waves rough and the sun beating down painfully, people were stripped down to nothing and lying around languishing on the deck. Even we were miserable, and felt so bad for Ian’s parents, who were definitely not acclimated to the Thai heat from Canada quite yet. We kept promising them that it was normally a painless journey!
• Missing my dad’s 70th birthday. There are only a few events I’ve missed that have really haunted me and this was one of them. With almost all my family all together in Los Angeles for the big event, it just about killed me not to be there. Believe me, I won’t miss his 80th for the world!
• All of the above paled in comparison to a terrible conflict I had this month with a person very close to me. I was absolutely devastated by our blowup and felt like I walked around in a trance for days just processing it. It still hurts my heart to think about.
On a lighter note, I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did during a classic misunderstanding at Hemmingway’s in Bangkok. We had splurged and ordered an elaborate cheese platter which was heavy on the good stuff but skimped on the crackers. When we ran out and asked for a few extras, the waitress looked distressed and fled the table.
When she returned, she explained there would be an extra charge of 50B (about $1.50) for extra crackers, and made a gesture with her hands that we thought indicated a small packet of crackers. “Let’s go wild and get two,” Ian nodded, while I wondered aloud if that would be too much. The waitress, again looking extremely distressed, confirmed several times that we wanted two before again fleeing the table.
Just when we were starting to wonder what was taking so long, saw the waitress approaching with a small plate… and two single saltine crackers. While I suppose we probably should have been outraged at what might be the most outrageous pricing I’ve ever encountered in Southeast Asia, we couldn’t catch our breath from laughing long enough to care. Oh, our poor waitress.
Best and Worst Beds of the Month
I’m skipping this section for the month, since everywhere we stayed was equally and boringly great.
Best and Worst Meals of the Month
Best: Karma Café. Fresh, organic, vegan and covered in colorful aloha-inspired artwork, this place could not be more Koh Phangan — it’s almost like a parody of itself. That said, it’s insanely good and was a highlight of my weekend on the island. I see many meals here ahead in my future!
Worst: Dinner in Haad Rin before the Full Moon Party. I can’t remember where we even ate but it doesn’t really matter because everywhere seems to be uniformly bad. If anyone has a recommendation for a standout in this area, speak up in the comments!
It was a reasonable month. When I was on Koh Tao I was laying low, as usual, and my trips off the island were cheap (the two night, three day national park trip cost a whopping 3328B, or $95USD) and I had free accommodation both in Bangkok (I used TravelPony credit) and in Koh Phangan (where the lovely resort owner Anne generously hosted me).
However I did have some splurges — the Bangkok dinner cruise for Ian and I ($125), a bunch of food, toiletries and more that Zoe brought me from New York ($150), my contributions to my dad’s birthday party (I won’t say how much in case my dad reads this but it was over half my rent for the month!), the total interest after finally paying off my credit card bills after charging my new camera gear last summer ($130), my immigration extension ($65), a flight to Koh Samui ($75), and the Koh Tao cooking class for me and a friend ($55).
This was a fairly low-key month with no major new projects — I mostly focused on catching up on my ongoing partnerships, doing a bit of freelance writing for those existing sponsors and producing as much blog content as possible!
While I ended the month having earned half of what I did the previous one, it was still a healthy amount I was more than happy with. It was yet another month where my bottom line went up — what more can a girl ask for?
Health and Fitness
I think I did a decent job of mixing fitness into a month on the move. I did a boot camp class on Koh Phangan, took my friends to yoga and trapeze on Koh Tao, did tons of hiking in Khao Yai… okay, and did absolutely nothing in Bangkok (does walking around Chatuchak Market count?)
Once I was back on the island, I slipped into my now familiar and much loved fitness routine, one of my favorite parts of just being home on Koh Tao.
A few final Thailand adventures to Hua Hin, Khao Sok National Park,the Khao Yai wine region, Bangkok, and Koh Samui!
Thanks for looking 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.
Update: Travel Blog Success was merged with Superstar Blogging by Nomadic Matt. It’s an equally impressive course that I plan to take and review eventually — click here to take it yourself!
Great news for all you fellow aspiring bloggers out there! This week is Travel Blog Success’s Fall Sale!
I rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that’s kept me on the road for five years. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice, and was instrumental in getting me to where I am now! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now!
And one more thing — spots are still available for November slots of my Featured Blogger program. Come hang out in my sidebar (plus other perks!) Get in touch for more details.
Ooft getting into a fight with a person close to you can really bring a person down… Other than that it looks like a great month!
Lots to be grateful for… a fantastic month indeed!
That’s crackers 😉
Probably one of my favorite Thailand mix ups of all time! Ha ha ha.
1.50 per Saltine…that’s so ballsy. Love it.
Right?! And cheese is DEFINITELY the most expensive part!
Sounds like a pretty great month just saying my months are pretty run of the mill
It was a great one 🙂 No complaints here!
Sorry to hear about the friend downer. I really, truly love that photo of the bats in Pak Chong.
Thanks LC! It’s definitely one of my favorites.
Quite an action packed month … it’s making get pumped for Thailand this winter!
Me too! I can’t wait to get back.
There’s a trapeze class on Koh Tao? Can’t believe we missed that one!
Love to read these monthly roundups and the fact that it isn’t all sparkles and sunshine 🙂
There is indeed! Flying Trapeze Adventures is run by my friend Gemma and is a fabulous good time. Highly recommend checking it out next time you’re on the island!
Wow, it sounds like even the most mundane days over there must be a dream come true. The landscape and architecture in your photos all looks so wonderfully different.
That’s my favorite part of being on Koh Tao… mundane days are beautiful 🙂
You never fail to amaze me with how much blogging you manage to do in the midst of all this travel. I struggle to write most days, do you have any good tips for defeating writer’s block? Is it just a habit you’ve cultivated after all these years? Discipline I don’t have? TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.
Welllllll having not written anything in over a week this probably isn’t the most authoritative time for me to answer this question, ha ha. But in general I just really enjoy writing and producing blog posts so it tends to be my first priority. That might seem great from the reader side but unfortunately it can be to the detriment of other things on my to-list, like emails, accounting, etc. So basically, don’t be too hard on yourself! It’s all a trade off.
But also — I have gotten really good at using transit time, evenings, and basically any stolen moment anywhere to edit and arrange photos, which means when I sit down in the mornings to write the grunt work is usually out of the way. That definitely makes it easier to grind out content!
I am absolutely in love with these roundups, no matter how late they may be! Looks like another stunning month in Thailand! Glad the hosting went well, and you got to show off Kao Tao
Hosting can be so stressful, but when it goes right it’s the best way to explore your own home! 🙂
Never axe this series. It’s like having a burger with only cucumbers. I enjoy the little tales and flashback combined into one. I love the photo u posted on IG, it’s a nice ‘family’ photo of your crew from Koh Tao. As a reader, I am just as excited for you to return. See you soon your blog 🙂
I feel ya — I can’t wait! It was so nice to have a little family reunion.
It’s getting a bit ridiculous — is EVERYONE’S father turning 70 this year? Including my own? It’s gotten to the point where someone the other day mentioned their dad’s birthday and I just said let me guess… he’s 70! (“How did you know!!”)
It’s gut wrenching to miss a milestone but I can guarantee that most people living abroad don’t prioritise family nearly as much as you do. He’s only been in LA what, less than a year? And you’ve already been 2 or 3 times? That’s hugely commendable, especially considering your lifestyle. You make a really good effort so don’t beat yourself up!
Ha, that’s funny! The year of 70! Actually, it’s coming up on two years in LA — time FLIES! And I’ve now been out there four times, two short weekends and two longer trips. And I have another one coming up on the way back from Hawaii! So I do feel good about that. You’re right, it’s just hard to miss a milestone.
I loved your cracker story! Totally agree about the Full Moon party/Haad Rin too, I always avoid it and head to Haad Salad/Bottle Beach when I’m on KPY. Have you been to either? Those beaches are some of the most beautiful I’ve found in Thailand.
I love Haad Salad! I wrote a post a few months back about a weekend on Koh Phangan in a villa with a bunch of friends… that was Haad Salad. So gorgeous. Bottle Beach is still on the list!
Hi, I’m new to your blog and totally love how this article is structured! It reads so well and quick! Planning a trip to Asia soon, this will be handy.
Thanks so much — you’ll find plenty of Asia posts here on Alex in Wanderland! Let me know if you have any questions, and have fun planning your trip!
I love the monthly roundups, though I’d like to know what month it actually was lol (December? January? February). As a planner with a love for details, I like to know the nitty gritty as well as what things cost abroad (so I can budget accordingly for my trip to see you next year, natch!).
And thank god for Trail Wallet for helping me keep track of all those details! Brilliant for taxes, blog writing, and that moment when you look in your actual wallet and think wait, where did all that money go… ha.
Great adventues, good destination.
Thanks for reading, Tiago!
Knowing how cheap things are in Thailand, $1.50 per Saltine is flipping hilarious! You can’t help but laugh 😀
Especially when cheese is by far the most expensive part of a cheese board… not the dang off-brand crackers. Oh, we’ve gotten our money’s worth in laughs though!
I admire how you share your ups and downs so wonderfully! I love reading about your adventures. Sounds like you had a great month.
Thank you Grace! I think it’s important to show both the highs and the lows of long term travel and self-employment, two things that are often glamorized. Appreciate your comment!
Glad you had a great month 🙂 We are moving to Bangkok next year and can’t wait to visit these amazing islands you talk about!
Wow awesome! I’ve always dreamed of moving to Bangkok but can’t seem to tear myself away from the islands. Such an amazing city!