Tag Archives: beaches

Thailand in Pictures

My first visit to Asia, originally a five week trip, turned into twelve and has kept me too busy to update this blog. Now that things are coming to a close I am able to finally share what I’ve been doing in Thailand and the other places that have been a part of my winter.

Thailand was a mixed bag for me. It was full of trash, smoggy cities and the sky was smoky from crop fires. I felt a constant stress from being badgered by peddlers or needing to salvage a situation after a business promised something it couldn’t deliver – not something you want on a holiday. On the positive side, I met many kind and amazing travelers and Thai people who I hope will remain friends into the future. I ate the variety of delicious food found throughout the country and every city felt generally safe to be a woman traveling alone. Like most visitors to Thailand, I really enjoyed the colorful nature and animals.

The following are images of Thailand that best highlight the journey – there is so much to recap and it was hard to pick just and a few memories.

Seeing wild elephants was an experience I will remember forever. I skipped seeing captive elephants, deciding it best to spend money on parks and infrastructure keeping these creatures living free. For about $30 I traveled to Kui Buri National Park and, with a guide in a truck, played “elephant hide and seek,” driving slowly in the park with binoculars glued to my face. We were very lucky to spot a few small groups including one with a baby (!) and a few solo elephants – one was an aggressive male that spotted us from 300 meters away and stamped around a bit to show who is in charge.

A friend and I had a great time biking around the forest and roughly 200 ruins that make up Sukhothai Park. The structures date from the 13th and 14th centuries CE. We enjoyed comparing the differences in architecture and decorative details of the well preserved pieces. Some corners of the park are free of people and make nice places to just relax.

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Erawan National Park hosts a river with a seven tiered waterfall. Each level has clear-blue pools available to visitors for wading or swimming. This was the first major nature area I visited and loved it! Reaching the top tier was challenging as the path became increasingly reclaimed by nature but it was the most fun I had on a hike.

I’m not the biggest fan of Bangkok but the complex of temples around and including Wat Arun is gorgeous and worth an afternoon boat ride across the river. I actually visited twice, once around noon to see architectural details in full sunlight and once again in the evening to enjoy sunset over the city.

A trip to see Huay Mae Sai Waterfall in Chaing Rai turned into a hike in the hills. Behind the waterfall a trail leads into the surrounding mountains with no end in sight. The path zigzags through pastures and forests. I wish I’d had enough time to see where it went.

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Prachuap Khiri Khan, a half day train ride from Bangkok, was my overall favorite location in Thailand. It’s the most beautiful and quiet seaside town. Adorable natural monkeys live aside the gorgeous Ao Manao Lime Bay (inside an air force base! Visitors allowed in for free). Everything is affordable and the few travelers I met were all outgoing and friendly. After a few days the place felt like home.

I’m not a pretentious eater and just dove right into whatever I saw. Street food, evening markets and small Thai cafes helped make my $25 a day budget possible. My favorites were fresh lime juice, coconut ice cream (pictured), pumpkin curries (pictured) and pork larb. Only once did I eat something too spicy and only twice did I get a Thai whiskey hangover.

Thailand has layers in every part of life, just like anywhere else. You can really do anything and build the travel experience that works for you while getting to know the culture. I’m glad I was able to see the huge metropolis that is Bangkok, tiny island villages, mountains, rivers, jungle, 1000-year-old temples, modern arts, take a swim in the ocean, go biking, do aerobics in Limphini Park with 300 other people, eat something totally new, binge on Oreos and other familiar treats, make new friends from every continent, visit English learning classrooms and meet students, and stay with a Thai family. Spending five weeks was enough time to get a feel for the country.

I’ve appreciated some of the challenges of the last few months. It’s an amazing privilege to go half way across the world and see how things work and people live in another place, even if it’s not always wonderful.

Goodbye, Thailand! Maybe I’ll be back again some day.

Thank you for reading!

Ruby

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Spain: Basque Beaches (Road Trip Part 2)

Writing to you from Santiago de Compostela, with my feet up, hoping to get some rest after a long, hot day exploring the city. It’s a charming place with a rich cultural scene, history, and even though a bit inland, still has delicious seafood.

Now it’s time to finally catch up on some posts. Spain has been a bit chillier and more rainy than usual, which wouldn’t bother me at all had I been a bit more prepared. The rain coat (bright blue and bound to make several appearances in photos) and sweatshirt have been a daily wardrobe staple and my poor hiking shoes are constantly damp. The breeze is strong and the weather changes every fifteen minutes but I find it beautiful and very powerful. The two week trip across the northern coast from Santander to San Sebastian (and a quick stop in France) to Gijón and A Coruña is about 1,600 km.

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The coast a few kilometers East of Bilbao.

 

The Basque area was really beautiful with many small roads hugging the coast and frequent beaches with hiking routes. Gentle mountains to the south and the ocean to the north provided contrast and wonderful landscapes all the way. I’d heard Basque food cannot be missed and ate out as often as possible. The delicious fish, cheeses and wines, as well as Basque cakes, were all very good. Nights with a cool air coming off the of the ocean made a warm or heavy dish tolerable.

Playa de Laga

 

The next day I took a short hike beginning just outside of  Urdaibai –  Biosfera Erreserba beginning at Playa de Laga. This was such a beautful views of the coast. I’ve been using Wikiloc with mixed success for finding hikes. My main issue is not having quite good enough Spanish to understand routes or using the correct Spanish hiking jargon while searching. Almost the entire coast has a hiking path, official or not and numerous networks exist slightly inland. Northern Spain is a perfect place for  a “choose you own adventure” kind of hike. 

 

Where a river meets the ocean.

 

Weather was challenging during the section between Zauritz and Biarritz  (FR) with full clouds or rain most days. San Sebastian looked cute even in a storm but there was no time to wait for sun and take a look at the beach. The most easternly destination on the ride was Hossegor, France and the long sandy beaches that make it a surfer’s paradise. These days provided a nice opportunity for trying some local food, in particular, cheeses. Admittedly, I was delighted to score some Belgian beer in France a touch cheaper than it is other places. I enjoyed playing beach bum.

Playa de la Arnía, just West of Santander was a highlight. The day had been rainy from the start but the evening cleared up a bit for a visit to the iconic beach. The Urros that thrust out of the ocean and have been shaped by waves and wind over time are amazing. Some rock appears razor thin at some points and the features seem to defy gravity! Around this area there are so many beaches it’s almost overwhelming. I love walking along beaches with interesting geologic features and thought I might fall in love with all of Spain’s northern coast.

At Playa de la Arnía

Thank you for reading!