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Archive for January, 2011

Since lately I appear to have devolved into a Debbie Downer who only pines over Thailand or whines about the frost that has settled over my city, I have decided it is time to remind myself — and all of you devoted readers — what it is I truly love about this little peninsula.

I’ll start with the excellent restaurant service. Gone are the days with jaded teenagers bringing me plates like its a chore, grumpy and feeling entitled for a tip out of my hard-earned cash. Oh no. Culturally, the population here has an incredible amount of pride in their job performance, whether they’re on the city council or serving you bibimbap. The service I’ve encountered in restaurants and cafes is quick, efficient, and over-the-top polite. Recently I opted to spend a snowy Saturday night in, and headed to a local Italian joint to score a take-out dinner for one. While I waited for my mushroom risotto, waiters popped over to bring me water, bread, soup and doted on me like I was a dining guest. At every establishment, the staff goes out of their way to make customers comfortable.

In most restaurants and bars in Korea, you will see a small doorbell-type device perched on your table. If you need anything — be it banchan, anju or a couple more mekchus — you simply press the button, hear a faint ding, and a waiter or waitress appears before your eyes, waiting for your order.

Now, this whole process isn’t remotely as rude that it sounds written down — it is just practical and efficient. In America, you expect your servers to check in to your table constantly, even when you don’t need something. Then, of course, when you decide to order, your table help is nowhere to be found! Why waste their time when you’re not ready, and your time when they’re helping someone else?

Enter table bells. It’s not like we expect people to come running when we ring cowbells designed to call over servants — this system just allows the servers to be doing other work until you actually need them. This also takes away wait time at bars, which can be frustrating when you’ve been desperately waving money as every bartender ignores you.

Enjoying cuisine or beverages in Korean, but nary a button in sight? Don’t fret. It is also socially acceptable (and downright necessary) to call “Yogiyo” to get your server’s attention if you are in desperate need of a bottle of soju or another bowl of garlic. Yogiyo translates to a polite way of saying “here” — but again, it is not rude. It would be obnoxious to yell “Yogi” because the addition of -yo to the end is what makes this saying formal and respectful.

Beats the hell outta waiting for your server to finish out their path around the crowded restaurant in the States!

The best thing about the exquisite service in Korea is that it doesn’t cost extra. Waiters don’t dote on you because they want or expect a tip, they do it because it is their job. Period. No lagging on the food, no expectant glances at your purse, no eye rolls — just friendly, helpful service for no charge. I know that when I go home, I will expect much more out of restaurants and their staff. If only American restaurant workers made a decent wage, so that tips can be given for above-and-beyond service and not necessary for the wait staff to have the money to live.

And then there’s the free food with the alcohol. ‘Nuff said.

Not only do Koreans display pride in their workplace, they echo that in their wardrobe. No one leaves their apartment without being immaculately dressed — heels, tapered blazers, not a single hair out of place. Mothers of the children at my school look better picking up their children from kindergarten than I look when I go to the club! Although being surrounded by gorgeous, flawlessly dressed women has had a positive effect on me — I leave the house in sweatpants less frequently, or cover them up with my knee-length winter coat. I’ve also been inspired to pick up pieces at little boutiques to add a little oomph to my tired wardrobe.

And you better make sure you’re looking you’re best, because if you’re not you will definitely hear it. Koreans are honest, brutally at times, because their culture demands it. Not only does everyone follow the rules, but they snitch on people who don’t. The honesty can be painful when your co-worker tells you, unprovoked, that you look tired or hungover, but it can come in handy when you leave your iPod at the gym.

Earlier this week, I walked home in the bitter cold only to realize that was exactly what I had done. I trudged back, and my MP3 player was sitting at the front desk, waiting patiently for me. In America, I had an iPod stolen from my house and one stolen from my car, but Koreans wouldn’t even take my music sanctuary as it sat in front of them at the gym. So there it is — thank goodness for honesty.

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Last weekend, the Jeonju United Football Club hosted their annual dinner and award ceremony in an upstairs room in T.G.I. Fridays. The boys put on their Sunday best (WAGS too) and everyone toasted the players with the most as the certificates and trophies were handed out.

The formal evening began brilliantly with a phenomenally discounted meal, complete with plenty of beer, wine and wineade (which tasted like a Shirley Temple to me). Evan dressed to the nines in a shirt and tie, while I donned a black dress, shiny sparkling tights and ankle boots. I worried about braving the weather for hours beforehand, considering it got down to -13 degrees Fahrenheit outside… and I was wearing a DRESS! AHHHHH! Luckily we had a few drinks at the Beer Cave before dinner, where Rachel and I convinced everyone to take a cab, even though the restaurant is in our neighborhood.

Dinner was fabulous, except we ran into a group of our kindergarteners — one of which was celebrating her 8th (7th in American age) birthday. The children followed us around like puppies for awhile, bringing balloons to our table, charming our friends and asking for sips of mekchu (eek!). I obviously forbade it, telling them that it was “grown-up juice” until the birthday girl whispered loudly about it being beer. Still hoping that one doesn’t somehow bite me in the ass down the road.

After the ribs were picked clean and everyone’s cheeks flushed with the rise in our BAC, it was into cabs and onto Japanese soju, were we ordered pitchers of fruity cocktails and gossiped at multiple long tables chock full of foreigners and friends. The volume of our conversations increased with every strawberry and kiwi soju we put down, but the population in the University hot spot didn’t even notice. Our noisy mass fit right in :)

Finally, it was time to DANCE! The football lads and ladies made our way to M2, the favorite new spot for sick spinners, chic locals and disco lights until the wee hours of the morning.

Evan loves to throw down some hyphy moves on the floor with his pals — especially kitty cat Theo down there. One of his little-known and under-appreciated talents.

Inevitably, the dancing led to a high kick off, with bunches of alcohol-fueled friends tried to kick higher than each other, throwing up our feet to the beats.

I probably flashed a few innocent bystanders in the process, but I believe my kicks were high enough to deserve a shout out (from myself… whateva). It was another awesome night with awesome people that we paid dearly for the next day :)

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Why do people always tout their city as “having seasons” like it’s some sort of draw?

Mild springs, hot summers, breezy falls and snowy winters sound good on paper, buuuuut… they aren’t so great in real life.

Spring and fall, albeit gorgeous, only last for two months (if you’re lucky) each. The rest of the year is overwhelmed by sweltering, dripping summers that make you want to peel off your skin, or stinging, whipping cold that makes your eyes tear up and your hair freeze.

I’m from Southern California. We may not have seasons, but we have that coveted spring and fall weather year round. We lay out at the beach in December. We bar-be-que in February. We wear skimpy Halloween costumes — and aren’t cold.

The first snow of the year landed on Christmas, much to my delight. I spent the following week strolling dreamily through the park, kicking the white powder with my rain boots and happily snapping photos of the winter wonderland around me.

Shortly thereafter, Thailand’s lush exotic climate and white sand beaches forever marred my opinion of this frozen landscape. Now, I drudge through the dark slush, feet numb, fingers red and nose running, dreaming of the sun that used to shine down on me. So. Over. It. The white stuff has gotta go!

Negativity aside for a moment, kiddos sure do look cute in their winter gear. This random “snow day” at school is the one thing that brings a smile to my congealed face.

Only 2.5 more months ’til I’m soaking up those UV rays and adding color to this translucent skin of mine.

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New Year’s Eve was one crazy night, but it wasn’t the only adventure to be had in Thailand. From zip-lining to getting up close and personal with a baby tiger, our days on Koh Samui were packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

On the first day of 2011, we slept all day before being roused by the mellow evening breeze that swept into the windows of our gorgeous, tropical retreat. We threw on our warm weather-ready garb, hopped into a cab and spent the evening on Bo Phut beach, in Fisherman’s Village.

After a lovely dinner at Starfish, we strolled in the village and perused merchandise from the various shops and street vendors lining the warm, well-lit streets. We inspected trinkets and souvenirs before finding ourselves at Dr. Fish, a spa that specializes in tubs with tiny fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet.

It was ten minutes of simultaneous tickling, discomfort and hilarity! Mimi and I went into a tank, while Matt and Evan hopped into another.

The feeling of the fish nibbling on my toes, heels and ankles was too much to bear. Mimi and I spent our time laughing, screaming and swirling our feet around in the water, terrifying the little buggers. Eventually, the fish stopped biting because we squirmed so much.

Evan and Matt kept cool under pressure a lot better than we did. They giggled and chewed on their lips, but were able to hold their feet still long enough for the fishies to get a decent meal. The school in the water swarmed their feet! It was a funny experience, but not one that any of us are looking to repeat any time soon.

Also, during our “spa treatment,” a crowd of people watched our discomfort through the floor-to-ceiling glass panels. I’m sure we scared more than one person off!

After a beautiful, relatively quiet night (aside from a rowdy tween who shot me with a popper on the street during a war with his friends) we hit the hay to prepare for the day of adventure that we had ahead of us.

The next morning, we woke early and hopped aboard our trusty motorbikes to begin our tour of the island. After breakfast and a long, bumpy ride into the jungle, our first stop was to the Canopy Adventures. It was there where we suited up to zip-line through the tree tops.

Weeee! It was mildly terrifying to sail through the trees, but mostly just exhilarating. We had a blast, swinging in the trees and screaming as our small platforms swayed in the wind.

Our tour guide was awesome too — cracking jokes, telling stories, and even zip-lining upside down! He even took a great video of one of our rides, scaring all of us at the end when we almost collided! YouTube is being funky (boooo) but I will upload the video as soon as I can! :)

A seaside lunch and motorbike ride later, we arrived at one of the largest waterfalls on Koh Samui. Surrounding the waterfall were touristy activities of sorts — elephant rides, more zip lines, and even petting and taking a picture of a tiger or leopard! I know that I probably shouldn’t support the mediocre (or worse) care of these animals by paying to take a picture with them, but the baby tiger was so cute I couldn’t resist.

We fed the little guy a bottle :)

The waterfall was a rocky hike away, but definitely worth it once we reached the top. We chilled out there for a bit, combating the sweltering heat with the cool spring water.

Afterward, we headed to Hin Tai and Hin Yai, the Grandfather and Grandmother rocks located on Lamai Beach. These rocks, shaped like male and female genatalia, located closely together, have spawned a legend about how they came to be. The story tells the tale of Ta Kreng (Grandpa Kreng) and Yai Riem (Grandma Riem), an elderly couple who were killed at sea when their boat capsized on their way to marry off their son. The couple transformed into rocks as “proof to the bride’s parents of their true intentions.”

The sun was sinking in the sky when we arrived, and got some beautiful shots of the red-purple sky, breaking tide and the, ehm, phallic rock.

There was also a tiny reggae bar nestled into the boulders, Rock Bar, where Bob Marley played softly over speakers, rasta art donned the hut-like structure, and tourists and locals got together for a Chang and a laugh. It was peaceful and relaxing — a perfect end to a perfect day out.

Our last day was spent at Bo Phut, where we feasted before walking down the beach looking for seaside massages. We finally found a pleasant open-air space with four unoccupied beds — we laid down, and the Thai women got right to work massaging our sore bodies. The hour rub-down only set us back about $8, not bad for a massage with sand and surf as your ambiance.

Afterward, we found a beach bar to down some fruity drinks before scouring the streets for some lovely souvenirs to take home. Evan and I ended up with two wooden elephants to use as bookends, a wooden sculpture of a drummer, a beautiful bowl, and a deep red table runner. I also got a few clothing items to rock in April, when we meet my family in Oahu on the way back to the states!

The rest of our night was spent packing and eating with our friends, then starting our journey home.

Wonderful trip — food, friends, partying, adventures. One of the best vacations ever!

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New Year’s marked the anniversaries of both Evan and me and Mimi and Matt, so this year we decided to attend one of the biggest parties in the world — the famous “full moon party” in Koh Phangan!

Technically, this wasn’t a full moon celebration since there wasn’t a full moon in the sky, but it had all of the fixings of one — everything from body paint, house music and booze buckets to happy shakes, twinkling lights and fire. Lots and LOTS of fire!

After a rocky, sick-inducing ferry ride and stint in a cab, we made it to Haad Rin Beach, where the party took place. We paid our minimal entrance fee before crossing through the gate and heading straight for the body paint.

I wanted space-themed pictures on my arms (suns, moons, stars) while I had free reign with Mimi’s arms. We didn’t go crazy with the paint, but did enough so that we could have fun pointing at it under black lights later.

We walked down an alley full of vendors before reaching the sandy beach — and little could prepare me for what we were about to experience.

We entered the beach alongside a huge club shaped and lit-up like a pirate ship, which was blasting music that spilled out onto the sand and floated toward the crashing waves. To the right, we saw a massive sandy dance floor with elevated “stages” for club goers to shake it on, and signs three stories tall, awaiting a kindle so they could burst into flames and impress the partiers with their various messages.

In the far distance, beyond rows of palm trees and nestled into a rocky cliff, was an area known as mellow mountain. It consisted of three or four different bars on various levels of the hill, all serving up drinks, loud beats and happy shakes.

We ventured up mellow mountain on a few occasions during the night. I particularly liked the few bars that offered over sized pillows to sit or lay on, surrounded by floor tables. It was a nice place to relax if you had too much trance for the time being.

The mountain was lit up by twinkling, spinning, sparkling lights of every color. The result of this rainbow was that it looked more like an attraction out of Disneyland than anything else. That was the first of many times I felt that way — it was like Vegas, a playground for adults where inhibitions dropped and craziness was rampant. The out-of-this-world experience reminded me of going to places like Coachella <3 — one night cut off from the world, where the only thing that mattered was music, friends, dancing and having a great time.

On the opposite side of the pirate ship (as the club was dubbed by our group), the beach was lined with clubs blasting out intense beats, vendors selling street food and alcohol buckets, and performers amazing crowds with various forms of fiery entertainment. Since we had noshed on delicious street grub before coming to Koh Phangan, we didn’t eat at the party until much later into the evening.

The “buckets” sold on the beach came with a flask of alcohol and a chaser, ranging from soda to red bull. I wasn’t too interested in drinking since I felt a bit nauseous during a portion of the party, but I did build a sand fort with the empty bucket once one was polished off in the group :) I have sand building skills, what can I say? A few people marveled at it as they walked by.

We got wrapped up in watching one man twirling fire batons for awhile (he was amazing) before heading to the far end of the beach to watch people jumping a blazing rope.

Little did we know, these weren’t professionals at all — they were common drunkards from the bash! To say we were shocked that inebriated people would willingly subject themselves to burns at the hands of the fire rope (and the idiots who kept dousing the rope with alcohol) is an understatement.

Another party favor that didn’t sit well with me were the giant fireworks that the vendors sold to stumbling party goers. These people would buy explosives the size of my arm, then fumble around for a few minutes before figuring out how to blast the thing into space! They were beautiful but being shot off waaaaay too close to crowds of people. Call me a stick in the mud, but having my arm blown off by a firework doesn’t sound like much fun.

Although, the firework display that the professionals shot off at midnight was absolutely stunning and mesmerizing.

The majority of the crowd at the party were a few years younger than us — maybe 22-23 or so. A lot of people traveled from Europe or Australia to attend, but we didn’t run into that many more Americans.

The beach provided a perfect place for an event like this — loud and crowded in front of the clubs where you wanted to groove and get sweaty with hoardes of people, but quiet and serene in other areas of the beach, where you just wanted to lay in the sand, look at the swaying palm trees and listen to the waves crash. The large scale of the venue made these contrasts possible, which I was grateful for.

There were moments I didn’t want to get off the dance floor…

…and moments where I wanted to plop down in the sand and just observe.

We abandoned the beach close to 4 AM, when the crowds broke up and the beach was littered with trash and bottles. We got back to the ferry station at 5, only to learn that the first boat didn’t head back to Koh Samui until 7. No matter — we set up shop in the station, rested a bit and were able to see a phenomenal sunrise as we headed home.

All in all, a fabulous experience — utter madness at times, one of the craziest nights ever, but I loved every bit of it. I am so happy that I finally got to see the shenanigans on Haad Rin up close, as I have wanted to for years. I have probably gotten my fill of the full moon party (gasp…getting old) but am so glad that this is one I can put in the memory books.

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It is no secret that I love Korean food — from bibimbap to gamjatang, there aren’t many dishes here that I’ve tried and haven’t loved. That being said, eating in Thailand was one of the richest culinary experiences I’ve ever had. The tropical cuisine is complex, savory and full of contrasts — sweet and sour, creamy and spicy — and uses lots of umami in the dishes.

Our first day of travel was met with some dismal dishes from the airplanes we rode in. To be fair, the food was better than on most planes, but it was seriously lacking substance. Oh, and the bread tasted like plastic — I suspect the chemicals from the wrapper leeched into the bread when it was warmed up. Clearly, I ignored this part of both meals.

The first one consisted of fried rice, which was decent. I ate all  of it, but left the rest of the plate untouched. The rice actually came with a side of gochuchang, a Korean red bean paste that I’m pretty obsessed with, so that gave the cardboard cuisine some oomph.

The second meal was less memorable than the first. I ate the rice, ignored the “chicken” and ate the canned fruit. Eh.

Upon arriving in Bangkok, we immediately ordered a plate of fresh fruit and was given an array of pineapple, papaya and watermelon. The fruit was perfectly ripened, fresh, juicy, sweet and tasted like heaven after our day of airplane food.

This inspired many more plates of fruit during the duration of our vacation. Perfect!

Koh Samui, the small island where we spent our trip, is well known for it’s seafood so that was the dominant source of our energy during our stay. We noshed on everything under the sea :)

Our first day in town, Evan and I unloaded our backpacks, changed out of our sweaty travel gear and headed to our guesthouse restaurant for some Koh Samui eats. It was there we ordered the first of many plates of pad thai, and it instantly hooked me. Spicy and nutty at once, the noodles were perfectly cooked and everything was balanced with crisp vegetables and a splash of lime.

Another plate of the country’s signature dish:

That evening, we strolled to a gorgeous restaurant down the road in bustling Chaweng Beach for some fish dishes. I opted for a grilled salmon fillet (which I hadn’t had in nine months, thankyouverymuch) while Evan chose the ahi tuna. Both dishes were served with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a lemon sauce with fresh tomato.

The fish was moist and succulent. It felt so nice to get my omega-3s and enjoy a plate of seriously delectable food — all for around $10 each. The potatoes were soft and fluffy, and we practically licked the tangy sauce off of our plates, it was that good.

Despite the lack of formidable foreign cuisine in Jeonju, this meal was the only semi “foreign” fare that we had during our stay in Thailand. To come to a country with such a rich selection of cultural food and only eat spaghetti or tacos would be a total waste.

We did, however, deviate for breakfast. I couldn’t pass up beans on toast or the breakfast wrap I had. Western breakfast is somewhat of a luxury in our town.

The next day, we met up with Mimi and Matt after their long trip from the States. The four of us changed, then headed down to the dock where we would catch a ferry to Koh Phangan for the New Year’s Eve party. While we waited, we ordered some street food for a quick dinner.

We had a huge variety of carts from which to choose — everything from skewered meat and egg rolls to noodles and sweet potato pastries. In the end, we all bought and taste-tested different dishes.

I chose a rice and vegetable dish, mixed together in a spicy sauce and topped with roasted nuts (chickpeas maybe?) and served with cabbage. I gobbled it up so quick that Evan had to order another bag! Matt and Mimi chose an awesome green curry (another thing I couldn’t get enough of in Thailand). We also got a few egg rolls (yum) and Mimi picked a sweet dessert.

We danced our pants off at the beach that night, got back to the hotel at 9 AM (eek!) and passed out until it was time to hunt for dinner. We grabbed a hotel cab to Fisherman’s Village in Bo Phut, a quieter and calmer beach compared to the chaos and masses of backpackers that lined Chaweng.

We ended up dining at a great place called Starfish, where we ordered appetizers and four main dishes to share. Dining was only second best to seeing our friends in the flesh — every time we ate, we used the same system of ordering a lot and sharing everything. That way, everyone was able to taste the excellent grub. I am all for family style meals!

At Starfish, we noshed on whole snapper stuffed with lemongrass, pad thai, yellow Thai curry, glass noodles with prawns, seafood coconut milk soup and caprese salad. All washed down with red wine and Chiang. It was a particularly special night, marking the anniversaries of both Evan and I and Matt and Mimi!

For dessert, we picked up three pancakes from this guy, who was dubbed “the pancake man.” He made thin crepes with a methodical method, entertaining his customers while he made drool-worthy food to order. Our coconut/chocolate, banana/lemon/sugar and nutella/banana concoctions took about 10 minutes (at least) but they were most definitely worth the wait.

The next day, we stopped at a picturesque restaurant along the highway for a quick lunch between our jam-packed day’s adventures. It was here that we ordered the best (and cheapest) pad thai of the trip. That, along with plates of spicy vegetables and fresh fruit, hit the spot.

Dinner that night was a feast that left me feeling full for hours. From noodles and curry to sweet and sour pork with pineapple, the amount of quality food with such a wide variety of textures and tastes was nearly too overwhelming for my taste buds to handle. I kept eating long after my stomach signaled for me to stop, because who can resist a pineapple filled with pork?

On our final day on the island, we celebrated with a beach side lunch. I chose a traditional dish with prawns, mushrooms and ginger and added on an avocado salad. It was creamy, with tangy vinaigrette and acidic tomatoes. A plate of perfection. I miss avocados so much!

For dinner, we made reservations at Eat Sense, one of the most popular restaurants on the island. The food was amazing, but due to the even more amazing company, I only had the energy to take a photo of the stunningly beautiful surroundings on our walk in. It was the perfect way to end the perfect trip — lots of traditional Thai food, best friends, and red wine before our ride to the airport.

I want to go baaaaack!

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Let me preface this post by saying that not even the approximate 26 hours we spent in various methods of transportation en route to our final destination in Thailand could mar my feelings about this amazing, exotic, tropical and laid-back country. I loved every second of it, even — and especially, at times — the journey.

Evan and I began our adventure on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM, when we bundled up, grabbed some kimbap and chicken strips and braved the snow to hop on a three-hour bus to Seoul, from where we would depart to Thailand early Wednesday morning. Bus travel in Korea is extremely comfortable, so as soon as we hit our seats I snuggled in and tore into our food.

Evan thought it was hilarious that I ate my chicken with chopsticks, but what was I supposed to do? My hands were filthy and not acceptable vehicles to shovel food into my mouth. I’m sure the germaphobes in my family can appreciate that.

Kimbap is a Korean dish that is similar to sushi, but instead of fresh fish wrapped in the rice and seaweed, the roll is filled with egg, various vegetables (typically carrot, spinach and pickled radish) and usually ham. It is delicious and and staple in our diet. We eat it at least two or three times a week. NOM!

Thanks to family visits, my desire for a piping bowl of chili and Evan’s competitive urge to play FIFA, we got only a few hours of sleep before it was 4 AM, and time to catch a bus to the airport. Thankfully, my cousin Tim told us about a bus straight to Incheon that took an hour, which was such a relief because the subway wasn’t running yet and besides, it’s a pain to get to the airport by train.

We waited for our 9 AM flight, watching the sunrise from the gorgeous wall/windows at Seoul Incheon. It is literally the prettiest and most efficient airport I’ve ever been to.

Our first stop was in Shanghai at around 10 AM. The airport was alright, but what really made me uncomfortable was the utter curtness of the airport employees. Everyone seemed beyond annoyed, short and like I was being a total pain in the ass. Hmph.

I feared that this may have been simply the Chinese way, but that was before I had a completely different experience in Beijing. More on that later. We killed time during our 2-hour layover with spicy chicken, onion rings and Asahi (we’ve been on a chicken kick since Christmas Eve). Hee hee.

At 4 PM, we finally arrived in Bangkok! It took 30 minutes to get through security, which was a miracle since everyone and their mother from all around the world decided that was the place to be that afternoon. Before we knew it, we were in a cab to the Bangkok train station. Once at the station, we bought tickets for an overnight train/bus/ferry ride to the island of Koh Samui, where we’d be spending our time. We were sweltering when we got there (it was in the 80s) and had peeled off layers during our trip. After all, it was about 15 degrees when we left Seoul that morning!

We celebrated our arrival with Thai beer and fresh fruit. The sleeper train was amazingly space efficient. We ate more vendor food, chatted, and people watched all the backpackers interacting until a man came around to help us assemble our bunk. As soon as my bed was ready, I crawled in and passed out.

We awoke (well I awoke) at 4 AM, because our ticket said that’s when we’d be transferring to a bus. Well that was before I knew everything ran on “Thai time,” which is roughly 1-1.5 hours late. Eventually we bussed to the pier in Champong, where we boarded a ferry that would take us to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and finally Koh Samui. We caught a gorgeous sunrise at the dock :)

We got to our destination around 1 PM, and were able to relax until more travel excursions the following day. On NYE, we had joined up with Mimi and Matt and made our way to a ferry back to Koh Phangan, where we would celebrate the new year. The ferry was so rocky, the water was choppy and the boat was full of drinking 20-year-olds. You do the math. Eesh.

We took cabs (and I use that term loosely, considering it was a pickup filled with people) to and from the party once on Koh Phangan, which was uneventful until the cab we were leaving in broke down on our way home. Everyone had to get out and push, during which I (of course) ran right out of my flip flop. I had to run back and get it, while the cab started to speed away. I screamed, ran with Mimi, and we barely made it back on. I lept for it, while a guy just swooped Meems on. It was nuts! Oh and when we were ready to leave Koh Phangan, we were at the ferry station before we realized we had 2 hours to wait before the first one. FAIL.

On the island, we got around on little motorbikes. It seemed like the preferred method of transportation for everyone, and it was awesome seeing everything from place to place, and doing activities on our own time. Plus, it was much cheaper than cabbing!

At the end of our amazing vacation, Evan and I boarded our plane to fly from Koh Samui to Bangkok around 9 PM. Once in Bangkok, we hopped aboard a 1 AM flight to Beijing, switched planes with the help of very friendly Chinese locals, and landed back in Seoul at 12 PM. A much shorter ride than the way out. I would have more to say about the seamless trip, but I literally slept for the majority of it. WIN!

In Seoul, we got tickets for the 1 PM bus to Jeonju, grabbed Dunkin Donuts and lamented that our island vacation was over. Evan: Goodbye white beaches, hello white snow. Goodbye 30 degrees celsius, hello 30 degrees farenheit. Me: Wah, waaaaaaahhh. All in all, we were really lucky that no hiccups occured on any planes, trains, buses, cabs, or motorbikes. It was a lot more travel time than the Japan trip, but ran much more smoothly.

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