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Posts Tagged ‘koh samui’

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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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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As LCD Soundsystem would say, This is Happening.

For our Christmas break, we’re heading to the beaches of Thailand with two of our very best friends on the entire planet for a week of partying, sun, sand and surf.

Oh, and we’re staying at the most fabulous hotel I’ve ever seen.

Did I mention we’re going to one of the biggest and best parties in the world for New Year’s Eve?

Living the dream…I can’t wait to see Mimi and Matt’s faces !!!

Why can’t Christmas ever come early?

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