Day 25: The Last Day

I really can’t believe that today was our last full day in Thailand! We were able to have a few adventures and some relaxing time to cap it all off. We decided to start our day kayaking. We have seen many people kayaking all week and have heard that there are a few caves you can explore, so we decided to check it out! The photos are a little blurry because they were taken through a waterproof case.

The morning started off very nice! There were blue skies and there wasn’t too much wind, so we were able to paddle through a cave and take a close look at a few of the limestone cliffs! However, after about a half an hour, the wind began to pick up and the clouds got really dark. Luckily we were not too far from shore, so we paddled in to wait out the storm. The wind was so strong! We were really not surprised about the weather- based on our past experiences on this trip, we really should have expected it:) Because the wind was so strong, the waves were huge! To pass the time, we all went for a swim! We got the waves we loved at Bamboo Beach back! 

Going through the cave!

After about a half an hour, the skies became a little less dark and we decided that we just had to try get back to the other beach because it didn’t really look like it was going to get much better. We had to drag our kayaks across the beach to get closer to where we needed to go and got a few funny looks. The actual paddle wasn’t too bad! It reminded Laura and I of one of our Boundary Waters trips to “Brutal Brule” with about 5 miles of paddling in whitecaps. We were able to make it back to shore no problem, but our already sore arms from rock climbing were pretty tired.

Dark sky!

After heading back to change out of our wet clothes, we went to check out an area of the peninsula that we just discovered today! It is a strip of restaurants and shops that the locals run! The food is more authentic and similar to street food. There were some souvenirs around, but all of the shops contained exactly the same things we have seen all over Thailand. If you have been to one store, you have been to them all. It was fun to look around and explore a part of Railay we haven’t see before. Beth and Paige went and got banana pancakes while Laura and I went to relax and read at our resort. It is pretty amazing that it was the last day and it was the first time we ever split up!

The waves were still really big, so Beth, Paige, and I decided to take one last swim! I love the ocean, so having the opportunity to swim in big, crashing waves one last time was awesome. I will definitely miss feeling the waves crash around me and the taste of salt while looking out at such incredible scenery. I am already looking forward to the next time I get to be at the ocean!

These waves were so fun!

Unfortunately, Beth got stung by a jellyfish after about 20 minutes of swimming. On our first day, some people on the beach told us that some locals helped them after their jellyfish sting, so we approached them and they rubbed some leaf mixture on it. There was another girl that they were helping as well, but she had welts all over her body! It looked very painful. (No, nobody peed on it like the movies) Luckily, Beth’s welts went away pretty quickly. We were hoping to get through our last day without a medical issue, but no such luck.

The beaches change so drastically at high and low tide. at high tide, it is filled with water!

After Beth got stung, we headed back to our resort to give it time to go down and read some more (yay!) If any of you know my mom or I’s reading habits, we tend to get very engrossed in the books we read. I never have time to read during the school year, so this has been such a treat! Game of Thrones is highly recommended.


After we had a chance to eat some of food, we decided we wanted to spend our last few hours of daylight on our favorite beach. It had been pretty cloudy all day, so we weren’t really sure if there would be a sunset, but would have been okay just sitting on the beach. There was actually a cave we heard about and decided to check it out! It was pretty cool! The limestone cliffs are so tall, they just tower over you wherever you go here! After climbing around for a while, we went to our favorite place to watch the sunset. It is in a little inlet or mini-cave and at low tide, it gives you your own private little beach!

The sunset was magnificent! Everytime you looked at it, it was a different color. It looked like a painting with the silhouettes of long tail boats in the distance and the beach on the horizon. The clouds were streaked across the sky and the limestone cliffs provided an interesting contrast to the beautiful colors. It was honestly the most amazing sunset I have ever seen and it was the perfect ending to our time here on Railay Beach and in Thailand. Watching the sunset gave us all a chance to have some closure and get lost in our own thoughts as we enjoyed the moment in content silence. We all appreciated having some time to just enjoy the peace and reflect on our crazy adventure. We all said later that we appreciated the that no one felt the need to fill the silence as it was really special to be fully immersed in the experience.

After sitting for a while, we walked up the beach a little ways and just stood in the waves to just enjoy them for a little while longer. Feeling the sand beneath my toes, the waves lap against my legs, and the breeze in my hair while watching such a beautiful sunset will be one of my favorite memories of this trip. It is not often that you get to feel perfectly content.

I am not a very sentimental person when it comes to objects, but I am very sentimental when it comes to memories. That is why this blog has been such a priority and experiencing moments like this one is so special to me. Reflecting on all of the crazy adventures we have had is almost overwhelming because there have been so many, and they have all been so unique and fun. It definitely hasn’t been perfect, and there were days when we were crabby, tired, and honestly just wanted to go home, but it was worth it, and we will come back with endless stories, thousands of pictures, and priceless memories.

One last group photo on the beach!

Tomorrow we will begin our very long journey home. We will have about 48 hours of travel and will probably arrive back in Minneapolis very tired and in desperate need of a shower. We get to see Randy one last time tomorrow as we have about 8 hours in between our Chiang Mai flights. I will try post a few more times as we wrap up the rest of this trip, but hopefully our travels are very smooth and there is not much drama to write about. We have had more than our fair share so far 🙂



Day 24: The Lagoon

Today was the best day. Literally. After all of our crazy once-in-a-lifetime adventures, going to the lagoon is number one on the list.  We were told about the lagoon on our fist day here while talking to some people on the beach. They told us that it was by far their favorite experience on Railay Beach and that it was some crazy rock climbing. We all instantly wanted to do it! We have been wanting to go for a few days, but there has been rain in the forecast. Since the rocks get slippery when they are wet, we have waited, but today we just figured we had to go regardless because it hasn’t rained every day it said it would. The chances were pretty low and it was a beautiful morning, so we went for it!

We first made a quick stop at the viewpoint! Here you can see how skinny the peninsula is. It is less than a 10 minute walk between East and West Beach. We are staying on the East side which is the side closest to the right side of the screen. We are going to miss this beautiful place!

This hike is not for the faint of heart. It starts with a slope that is almost 90 degrees, straight up. There were ropes almost the entire way to help pull yourself up, but mostly it was just literal rock climbing. After we got past the first rock face, we all looked at each other and said, “This is so unreal!!” It wasn’t too hot and we were covered by the trees and foliage most of the time, but it was so humid that we were just dripping with sweat.  It felt so good to get some solid exercise after a month of vacation! The lagoon is kind of right in the middle of one of the limestone cliffs, so we had to get to the top of it and then hike to the middle. It probably took an hour, so it was a decent hike!

Looks like the jungle to me!

After we got past the initial climb, it wasn’t as steep for a while and we were able to look around at all of the really cool trees and plants. It felt like we were hiking in the jungle because of all of the exotic plants surrounding us. We keep comparing this area to Gilligan’s Island- it is very similar and our childhood selves love it. Even though it wasn’t very steep at this point, there was mud covering the rocks and it was very slippery. After hiking for a little while, we came to our first rock face that we had to go down. It was literally straight down with a rope that you could use for assistance. Beth usually went down first and was able to help us find good footholds if we needed it.

Literally straight down. So fun!

There were four faces of various lengths that we had to climb down to get to the lagoon. A few of them had really good footholds the entire way and a few of them required us to do a little swinging or shimmying down the rope. It was so exhilarating and so so fun. After getting past our first face, we all took our shoes off which turned out being so awesome. It made a big difference when you were able to actually feel the rock beneath your feet and be able to grip with your toes. My feet are pretty scraped up, but it was so worth it!

When we got to the second to last face, we were able to see a hint of the lagoon through the trees. None of us had looked up what it looked like, so we were all really curious to see what we were hiking to. We were having so much fun climbing that whatever the lagoon looked like was just going to be a bonus!

The lagoon somewhere in the distance!

When we made it past our last face, we had to just climb down a little slope before we finally got to the lagoon. We were all just covered in mud. The ropes were all full of mud as well as all of the rocks that we were climbing down. We didn’t mind because it made us look pretty legit!

When we finally made it down to the lagoon, it took our breath away. It was as if God just drilled a hole in the middle of this limestone cliff and filled it with water. The limestone walls were towering around us and covered in trees. The water was so clear and the same beautiful blue-green color of the ocean. There were so many colors in the rock and in the trees, my eyes didn’t even know where to look! It is really hard to describe and the pictures don’t do it justice, but it is for sure the most beautiful place I have ever been. It was a little piece of heaven that I am so thankful I was able to see.

Getting back to our hiking and outdoor roots made us so happy, but one of the best parts of today was that we were alone for most of it. Feeling like you are the only people in the world in such unique place was an amazing experince. Because we went so early, we just missed the rush of people and we will forever be thankful for that. It definitely would have been a different experience with a bunch of people there. Comparing today to our tour, I am going to try as hard as I can in the future to experince wherever I go independently. Having the freedom to do what you want is worth the extra coordinating. Also, I would recommend trying to experience things on your own. For example, going bamboo rafting without a guide or going “rock climbing” on our own was awesome. (Obviously, as long as it is safe) I am not sure how possible this is in the US, but if possible, the freedom makes the experience even more special.

So much to see. The GoPro means we can get candid shots!

Because we came during high tide, we were able to swim! We spent about an hour just swimming around and enjoying the view. We were just trying to soak it all in and imprint what we were seeing into our memories. We came at the beginning of high tide, so the longer we swam, the deeper the water got. Beth and I could only touch on our tip toes and it was a struggle for all four of us to tread water in such close proximity to take a picture:)

The struggle is real for us short people

After we couldn’t touch anymore, we decided it was time to make our way back. Of course we brought peanut butter sandwiches to refuel, and after eating a quick lunch, we began our ascent. Climbing up is way easier than climbing down, but it still took a little while to get up each rock face. Because this trip is a trip of extremes, going back traditionally was not an option. We literally climbed up the small slope to the first rock face and it started to sprinkle. There were so many trees that we barely felt it, so we just brushed it off. However, about a minute later it started to downpour. We were instantly drenched. Because the rocks were going to be slippery regardless of if we went while it was raining or afterward, we just continued on! Even though this was probably dangerous, it never felt unsafe. The rocks provided really steady footholds and we were all able to climb up and down pretty easily.

So much mud!

The rain actually washed away some of the mud that was on the rocks, so it wasn’t even that slippery! The rope did get really slick, so we all were extra careful and made sure we had a solid hold and footing before we changed positions. The hardest part was that the pouring rain made almost little waterfalls down the rocks, so we were getting drenched in rain as well as a mud waterfall which made it a little difficult to see. However, we all made it with no problems! Even though it was so fun hiking to the lagoon, the rain added another element and just took the experience to the next level. It was by far the coolest thing I have ever done and will be such a special memory.

We love the rain!

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned about traveling this trip is the importance of finding people who travel similar to you. It was a gift that we all were so excited to rock climb with zero experince and thought that the rain made the day even better. Even having one person who was different would have changed the entire day and the trip in general. Also, we all enjoy some downtime, so it is nice that we all can appreciate just reading our books for a few hours. The moral of the story is to make sure that you know whether or not you and your travel partners are compatible because if you are not, it could lead to drama, resentment, and a lot of frustration. I can’t say enough how awesome my travel partners are:)

The photo above is what the beginning (and the end) of the hike looks like. As we emerged, just drenched and muddy, there were a lot of people curious about where we came from. You come out onto one of the main paths, so we were able to share our story and gave some tips to people that were just starting the hike. Of course, it stopped raining as soon as we were done.  We were so dirty! We walked back to our resort and dropped off our wet electronics before we ran to the beach to rinse off. Having the ocean so close is something I could get used to!

We were pretty much orange from the mud

After our busy morning, we spent a few hours reading and lounging at the pool. My toes needed some cleaning up, so Laura was finally able to say that she wasn’t the one that needed medical attention:) We then went to dinner at our resort! They were offering a special, so we decided to check it out. You can only eat so many peanut butter sandwiches. We finally got to have some pork again! The ribs were good, but nothing compared to Randy’s!

The photo below is a perfect example of how cats rule the world in Thailand. There are so many of them everywhere! They just roam around and lay where they please. I have almost stepped on cats so many times! These cats are not cute either; they are dirty and just have a weird look about them. Personally, I don’t enjoy cats, so I won’t miss this part of Thailand.

Tomorrow is our last day here! I can’t believe that our adventure is coming to an end. We are hoping to just soak it all in and savor every moment before we begin our trek home. I am not sure what I am going to do when I don’t get to have a once-in-a-lifetime adventure everyday!

Day 23: Beach Day

Today was such a nice day. It was very low key which was nice after our busy day with all of those people yesterday. First things first, we needed to find some actual food. The “mini marts” here have Ritz crackers, pretzels, and Lays potato chips and that is it, so we were desperate for some actual food. Paige had the idea to head back to the mainland to find a grocery store, so we decided to do that. We went to Ao Nang which is about 10 minutes by long tail boat. I’ve got to say, going everywhere by boat instead of taxi is pretty sweet!

After getting to the pier, we took a tuktuk (scooter taxi) to one of the local grocery stores. By now, we know which foods these grocery stores have, so we got to stock up on our usual food: peanut butter, bread, apples, Pringles, Ritz crackers, almonds, and some candy of some sort. We pretty much get all of the food that we recognize as normal food. It is not much!  I can’t wait to go to an American grocery store when we get back and be able to recognize what all of the food is. We don’t have very many options here, especially because we can’t cook anything. Don’t they know that some American tourists don’t like to eat out every meal!?

Our most interesting mode of transportation!
Notice the eggs on the shelf! Very fresh.

We had our tuk tuk driver drop us off at some of the local shops so we could grab some last minute gifts. Laura and I found out that we have the honor of being Maya’s godparents (Kristina and Dennis’s baby girl). We were so excited to have an excuse to buy little Thai baby clothes. They are so cute! Maya was actually born when Laura was in London, so Laura will finally be able to meet her for the first time on Saturday! She is the most precious baby, and we are so happy that we get to be a special part of her life.

We stopped for lunch at one of the local restaurants that had a nautical theme. It was kind of funny because even though it was ocean decor, it didn’t not belong in Thailand. It did have a super cool mural that made us want to go find a cooler place to snorkel!

We were transported to North Carolina for an hour… Never have seen a sail boat here.

We then had to walk back a little ways to the pier to take a long tail boat back to Railay Beach. We bought a big pack of water because it is really expensive where we are staying. Since you can’t drink the tap water, we have to buy it like you would buy pop at a restaurant. Our hotel gives us one complimentary bottle of water a day, but it is not enough if you don’t want to be chronically super dehydrated. It was cheaper to buy 12 bottles of water at the grocery store than one bottle of water at the restaurant we ate at today. We will never take free water for granted in America again! It adds up if you have to buy it wherever you go! Again, we were the girls walking down the street with a bunch of groceries getting very weird looks. I will definitely not mind if I never here, “Where you go? Where you go?” Asked of me by a taxi driver again.

Not your typical tourists…

After putting our new rations away, we decided to head back to our favorite beach to just relax. We all have started to read “Game of Thrones” so it was so nice to be able to just enjoy the sun and read. It hasn’t been super hot, so we are actually able to lay in the sun for longer than 5 minutes! Plus, we all have gotten some color, so we don’t have to worry about getting fried anymore. It was so relaxing!

Not a bad place to read!

We tend to be at this beach during low tide because there are less people, so instead of actually swimming, we just sit in the water. We miss the waves at Bamboo Beach! However, the water temperature here is perfect, so it is nice to just sit and chat in the water. You can just look around at the awesome scenery and be perfectly content.

So bright!
Literally always laughing. Even while being blinded by the sun.

Sweet relief on the eyes!

After many hours of being in the sun, we were so hungry, so we tried out some of our new food! Peanut butter sandwiches are just as delicious as we remembered! We were going to go on a hike, but ended up having some good quality pillow talk until it was dark. None of us were too disappointed. I am going to miss getting to talk with these girls everyday! We are at the stage in life where things can change so quick, so we were noting that it will be really fun to see where everyone is at in 6 months or even a year. Paige will be married and Laura and I will both be graduated! It is pretty crazy to think about.

Only half of the evidence of quality pillow talk

We only have two full days left in this beautiful place until we start our incredibly long journey home. We still would like to do some hiking and kayaking, so we will see if we can put down our books long enough to get off the beach!

Day 22: The Islands

Today was island day! There are many islands around Railay Beach and we wanted to check some of them out, so we signed up for an adventure package where we would be able to see some of the islands and get to go snorkeling! It ended up being a beautiful day and we were so excited to be on the water. We were not sure if we were going to take a long tail boat or a speedboat, so we were very relieved when we saw the speed boat pull up. The long tail boats do not seem very reliable. We started our day at 9am and it took about 45 minutes to get to our first island. It was so relaxing to be able to sit on the boat with a nice breeze and great views. Anywhere you look it is just amazing!

It is beautiful at any time of day!

The first island we stopped at was actually a national park! We had to pay an enterance fee, but it was so worth it because this was our favorite part of the entire day! It was called Bamboo Beach and had soft white sand and bright blue-green water.  All of the places we went to today were filled with tourists, but we were usually able to find a little place all to ourselves.  It was high tide and the waves were so big! About five feet into the water, there was a drop off and we all of a sudden couldn’t touch! It was so different than yesterday when we were laying horizontal in the water because it was so shallow. It is so funny to people watch on the beach because you just see all kinds of kinds. There are the girls that don’t go into the water, the girls that go in but don’t get their hair wet, the girls that casually swim, and the girls that are literally washed up to shore and almost drowned by sand waves (That was us). It is so fun to just get out there and fully experience everything we do!

White sand, clear water, and bright sun! What more do you need?
We are still getting used to the salt water
We don’t understand why people don’t want to be by themselves, but appreciate the open beach!

There were some really strong waves on this beach that would just pull you back and forth if you would let them. It was really fun, but the waves were so sandy! We had handfuls of sand in our swimsuits and will be picking sand out of our hair for the next week at least. It was so worth it! We would have paid a lot of money for boogie boards today, the waves were perfect!

After our 40 minutes on Bamboo Beach, we went back to the boat and went to a few famous islands in the area. We saw the islands where one of the James Bond films were shot, and also went to Maya Beach where “The Beach” was shot. We are going to try watch those movies to see what they were like without all of the people; you could barely even see them with all of the boats! However, the water was just like the photos and so cool to look at!

Maya Beach was just packed with people. We would all have preferred to skip it, but we had about a half an hour to explore. We found a path to the other side of the island, so we decided to check it out. We had to cross a little lagoon and wooden bridge and found a monkey on the other side! There wasn’t a beach or anything over the other side, but it offered another beautiful view! However, we were very happy to leave the island and escape all of the people!

The view on the other side!

They are very literal here…

We were supposed to go snorkeling after Maya Beach, but there were too many jellyfish in the water, so we went to eat lunch and were told that we would go somewhere else after lunch. We were all secretly pumped because we were so hungry.  We went to eat on Phi Phi Don, which is one of the really famous islands. In our original plan, we were going to stay a few nights on the island. However, after seeing that this island resembled Maya Beach in terms of the enormous amounts of people, we were so glad that we decided to just stay on Railay Beach the entire five nights this time. So far the switch has been so worth it! After we got out of the boat, our guide told Beth to hold out her hand, and threw a jelly fish in it! We all exclaimed, “Cool!!!”  I don’t think it was the reaction he was expecting.

Part of our adventure package was a buffet lunch. It was so nice to eat some actual vegetables and protein because we have been eating a lot of crackers and pretzels because it is the only thing they sell on Railay Beach. We really miss peanut butter sandwiches!

Finally some nutrients!!

By the time we were done eating, we didn’t really have enough time to find a beach, so we got some ice cream and watched the many boats coming in and out. It is seriously amazing how many boats we saw. Easily over 100. We have realized that we just don’t like being where all the people are because again, we were happy to leave the craziness behind us.

You have to wash your feet to get into the bathrooms here!

On our way to one of our stops, our boat suddenly stopped and our guide told us to look over the edge. It was a whale shark! You can’t really see much from the photo, but it was really awesome to see an actual whale in real life!

Our last stop on our tour was snorkeling! I had been looking forward to snorkeling for so long, but had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be super awesome after seeing all of the boats (at least 20) at every stop we made. However, we remained hopeful. Unfortunately, it turned out exactly like we thought. There were probably 30 boats in our area and we had to swim through dirty water with garbage floating on top to even get to clean water. After getting past the gross stuff, we were able to see some fish, coral, and other sea creatures, but it definitely wasn’t what we were hoping for. Even though it is nice to not have to worry about coordinating your transportation and meals, we would all recommend coordinating your own trip with a personal boat driver, even if it was a little more expensive because the tours are just so crowded. We were going to do another tour in the area, but have actually decided it’s not worth it. Especially for us.

So much garbage. So sad!

Even though we spent most of our day with hundreds of other people, it was still really fun to see all of the islands in the area. We have learned some more about how we like to travel and our future plans will be better because of it! As you can see, there was still lots of giggling, so that is proof that we had a great time!

After getting some of the sand out of our pants (literally) we went to one of local restaurants for dinner. Yesterday we saw someone order a burger and it made us all really crave it.  I have been pretty skeptical of the beef here after seeing all of the skinny cows, but we decided it was worth a shot. It went down, but was probably at least 20% charcoal. We are definitely going to stay away from beef for the rest of our stay here.

After eating, we had just enough time to catch the sunset on the beach we watched it at last night. When I was looking into Railay Beach last night, I actually found out that this beach is rated one of the best in the entire world. We totally understand why! The words that come to mind when trying to describe it are mesmerizing, majestic, incredible, mind blowing etc.. Looking at these cliffs just doesn’t get old. When we looked out at the beach and saw barely anyone, we were again so thankful that we got away from all of the people on the popular islands. The low key energy is just what we want and need.

Laura went further up the beach to take some photos and Beth, Paige, and I were able to just enjoy the incredible view. After being with each other pretty much 24/7 for the last few weeks, we have learned to pick up on when someone needs to be left alone, when someone needs a laugh, when someone needs medical attention, when someone needs some food… After experiencing all of these amazing and crazy experiences together, we have created a very special bond with each other. Even though many of you have been reading the blog and we will share many stories of our adventures, only us four will truly know what it was like here. It is so special and I am so happy that the connection is with Beth, Paige, and Laura. They set the bar really high for future travel partners.

The next few days will be spent on our island. The weather is supposed to be pretty good, so we will just see what happens! There are many hikes around here and we are going to try kayak to some nearby islands! We have three more days to soak it all in!

Day 21: The Best for Last

Today we flew to our final destination, Krabi! Krabi is on the South Eastern coast of Thailand and is known for being a more relaxed access point to the beach. There isn’t as many bars or clubs here and the vibe is very low-key. Morale has been pretty low the last few days as we have spent a lot of time at the airport, so we were very hopeful that Krabi would be the boost that we needed. Thankfully, we were right!

It was so green flying into Krabi!

After grabbing our luggage, we got a taxi to take us to the pier. After changing our plans, we never did additional research about getting to our hotel and realized that we were only able to get there by long tail boat! Krabi is actually a providence and we are staying on East Railay Beach. Railay Beach is known for it’s really low key feel and a lot of people come to hike and rock climb. We wanted that vibe and the access to some other islands we want to go to. Other than that, we didn’t know much about it coming in! It was such a fun surprise seeing that we picked something so awesome!

The long tail boat ride was about 15 minutes and gave us a little taste of what was to come. This part of Thailand is known for it’s huge limestone cliffs sprinkled throughout the ocean. These huge cliffs are majorly covered in trees and foliage, so everything was very green. The water here is also so clear and blue-green. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

So excited to be at the ocean!

Before we arrived at Railay Beach, we were thinking that we were going to have to get out of our boat while it was still in the water. We heard that there were not any docks on some parts of the island, so the girls were dreading having to carry their rolling luggage over their heads through the water. Luckily, we ended up coming to the beach the back way, so we got to use the dock. The girls were so pumped. My luggage has backpack straps, so I was looking forward to validating my purchase, but no such luck. It still has been nice because Thailand definitely doesn’t do sidewalk maintenance.

The girls were so excited about the dock!

We then had about a 5 minute walk along a path next to the beach to our hotel. This one is also very nice! We have a nice view of the pool and the rooms are very clean. We have two separate rooms here, but they are right next to each other which is nice. Most rooms in Asia have only twin beds, so only two people can share a room which is very different from the US.

There is not much on East Railay Beach, so we decided to check out West Railay beach because the person at the front desk said that is where people go swim! After putting on our suits, we headed over. It was only about a 10 minute walk and gave us access to a really nice beach, restaurants, and equipment for activities like kayaks. This trip has reaffirmed the fact that being “hangry” is a very real thing, so that was our first priority.While we were eating, it was raining and windy, but almost as soon as we were done it cleared up! We met a few people on the beach that had been there for a few days and they recommended some hikes and additional beaches to check out. We have definitely learned that you need to talk to a “local” if you want to figure out where the good stuff is.

Our one hour of rain
We finally had some Thai food!

It was pretty low tide right after we got done eating, so we just sat in very shallow water and found a bunch of little snails and crabs to play with. More baby animals! The tide kept on getting lower and we eventually were just sitting in the sand, so we decided to head back and check out the beach that was suggested to us!  The photo below is of Beth trying to take a sliver out of Laura’s toe. Laura has had a health issue almost every single day this trip, so our goal is just to get her back safe. We have been rotating nurse duty:))

We got to walk through a bunch of really awesome rock formations as we made our way to the south beach, Phra Nang Beach. Railay is not an island, it is a peninsula, but many of the paths look like they were just created through the bush because you get to walk next to and under these really awesome rock formations. There are also many caves on the peninsula that we can’t wait to check out! You can’t get to the peninsula from the mainland because the limestone cliffs are so sheer and high! It gives us the vibe that we are both on the beach and in the mountains, so we are all very satisfied. It doesn’t get much better than that.

When we made it to the beach, we all could not believe our our eyes! By this time, the sun had come out and the temperature was perfect. To top it off, the view was unbelievable! The cliffs are so enormous that your brain can’t really even comprehend it. They are unlike mountains in that they are so sheer! It is almost like they appear out of nowhere. There were many rock climbers and a few people on the beach, but other than that, we pretty much got to enjoy it in peace.

After finding an empty stretch of beach, we made our way back into the ocean. The water here is pretty warm and the sand is very soft beneath your toes. As you go out deeper, there is a lot of coral on the ocean floor, but you can usually swim over it and find a little sand bar somewhere close by. We swam to a nearby little cliff and then just spent a few hours talking and laughing in the ocean. It really was like therapy for us and was exactly what we needed after being so stressed the last week. We just kept looking around and wondering if what we were seeing was real. Even though the pictures are so cool, they don’t even do this place justice. It is just so beautiful and majestic everywhere you look!

Making our way to our private beach!

After spending a few hours in the water, we got out and were able to enjoy the sunset. It was the perfect end to our day and the perfect start to our five days here. Tomorrow we will be going to the Phi Phi Islands to do some snorkeling and exploring. We are so excited to finally be at the ocean. Just having this one day of sun so far has made our trip switch worth it!! We can’t even imagine being here and never seeing the sun. We are so thankful it has worked out so far and are glad that we are ending our journey here in this amazing place.

Day 20: Back to Thailand

Today was another travel day! We flew out of Cambodia around 330 and got into Bangkok around 415, so we spent a lot of our day at the airport. The novelty of flying has definitely wore off, but it has allowed us to see many different places in a short amount of time, so we appreciate it.  We also haven’t had a flight over $100 in Asia which is the best part! The US should definitely look into this!

We had to say goodbye to our amazing resort this morning. We really savored the amazing breakfast, especially the eggs, and soaked in all of the views.  We have gotten really used to just leaving our towels on our chairs, our dishes on the table, and people getting us things whenever we need them this trip, so real life might be a little bit of a shock.

Our resort provided free airport transport, so we got to see our guide from yesterday again! The funny thing about Cambodia is that once we got to our resort, we never left it’s safety. The only times we left the resort were to go to Angor Wat and to the airport and were with someone from the resort both times.  We actually met an old lady on the train that told us before we got to Cambodia that we needed to be careful there because the people are very different than Thai people. We could tell that it was different immediately, so that is why we stayed within the safety of our resort the entire time. If it wasn’t as nice or as safe as it was, we probably would have taken the first flight back to Thailand. We didn’t even feel comfortable leaving to get food, so we skimped by on our remains of peanut butter and bread. Our poor driver excitedly told us to come back to his country when we get a chance and we just kind of laughed and gave each other a look. We will definitely never come back here and would not recommend it to anyone.

We had about an hour to kill before we could check-in to our flight, but we have gotten very good at entertaining ourselves at the airport. What did people do before they had all these fancy devices!? Books take up so much room in your suitcase!

Ironically, the Siem Reap airport was the nicest airport we have been to so far. It is brand new and is still being built in some places.  The rest of Cambodia that we saw was similar to Thailand, but worse. Garbage everywhere, crowded buildings, and lots of scooters. That is another reason we stayed at our resort the entire time- it really was an oasis.

Immigration and security were a breeze which was such a treat compared to what we had to go through to get into the country at the boarder. We have since learned that it is way easier to enter into a country via the airport, both for comfort and immigration’s sake. The extra money spent is worth it. Just picture trying to get to a resort in Mexico by driving across the boarder and then through the country versus just flying into Mexico.  In retrospect, it is a no brainier.

We were all so hungry because of our lack of food at the resort and not wanting to leave, so we went to Burger King at the airport. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate something at a Burger King in the US, but it was so good. American food just hits the spot when you are hungry. Again, we struggle so much when it comes to international eating.

We met a few people from the US today and it was really fun to talk to them. After feeling uneasy in Cambodia, it was nice to feel a connection to home. One of the people we met was actually from Edina! The guy below is from San Francisco and embodies the long term traveler exactly with the beard, straggly hair, and varied clothing. He awkwardly saw us taking a photo of him playing guitar and then ended up sitting right next to us on the plane. We have seen so many travelers like him that we thought we should document it, so luckily he didn’t bring it up and we didn’t have to explain ourselves. He is four months into a year long travel stint, so he had some good safety tips for us in our last leg. That is an entirely different level of traveling!

We were so happy to be leaving Cambodia, but for some reason, we could not leave the country smoothly. There was a storm cloud coming in that we had to fly through, and the turbulence was so so bad. People were actually screaming! Beth, Paige, and I all got to sit together by chance, and were literally holding hands we were so scared. Even though we were terrified, we were just laughing at all of the crazy things we have had to go through on this trip.  We have definitely learned that humor is our coping mechanism through all of it. Luckily it died down after about 10 minutes, but we didn’t really relax until the plane was on the ground again. It was strangely comforting to hear that the grown men on our flight also thought we were going to crash and we weren’t just over reacting. We have six flights left until we get back to Minneapolis, and I think we will all be okay with staying on the ground for awhile.

As always, there were long lines at immigration, but we were so happy to be back in Thailand. Knowing that Randy is just a phone call away is very comforting, and we didn’t realize how much we appreciated it until we didn’t have that option in Cambodia. We had decided to stay at the hotel attached to the airport a couple months ago and were so happy that we didn’t have to get into a taxi and Bangkok’s “traffic jam”. We just got to walk through a skyway and were in our rooms 20 minutes after we got our bags from baggage claim! We also fly out early tomorrow morning to Krabi, so it will be nice to be able to just walk over to the terminal!

Since we are all out of peanut butter and bread, we had to find something to eat for dinner. We found out that there was a 7-11 a few blocks down the road and went to grab some food for our up-coming week at the beach.  There are 7-11s everywhere here. Pretty much on every block. They are a very large part of the government and the economy people can even pay things like parking tickets and such at 7-11! We decided to get some ramen again for dinner because we are trying to balance out our extra flight costs by spending as little as possible on food. I am not sure if it is even making a dent, but the ramen was good this time, too! There were also a few street vendors outside of 7-11, so we grabbed some sticky rice and corn-on-the-cob. It was hard to remember that we were in Bangok because it wasn’t very busy and seemed like a very local area, almost like Chiang Mai. It was crazy how fast we noticed the difference between Thailand and Cambodia. Here, nobody asked us to buy anything and didn’t even give us a second glance. We felt very safe walking the few blocks and the vendors we bought from were friendly. In Cambodia, we never would have even left in the first place! Your gut usually knows instantly! However, we saw rats again on our way back and remembered that we were in Bangkok. YUCK.

Paige’s expression is exactly what we all look like when we look at street food. “What is that?!” Lucky for us, our hotel had hot water ready and waiting, so we were able to fill up our cups and be on our way! I wonder if we are going to start eating ramen in the US now!?

We will be spending the next 5 nights in Krabi before flying back to Chiang Mai for a few hours the day we fly back to America. It is almost exactly a week until we will be back in Minneapolis! Even though we are very excited for what is in store for us down on the coast, we are very ready to be home, safe and sound in America. Luckily Randy has not deprived us of Dad jokes. We are so happy that we get to see him one last time!

Day 19: Angkor Wat

Today we made our way to Angkor Wat! Contrary to what I said yesterday, Angkor Wat actually isn’t one of the Seven Wonders of the World! It was considered for the list, but is actually known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” (Thanks, Nick!). I really don’t know much about this place, and we didn’t pay for a guide during our walk through, so if you want to know more, you will have to Google it 🙂 All I know is that it is the largest religious monument in the world currently, and it was the largest city in the world during the twelfth century (Thanks, Beth!). It was really cool to see even though we didn’t know what we were seeing.

We decided to just hire a driver for a half-day because we know from experience that after a while, temples just become temples. Plus, we don’t have the best track record with being outside in the heat. Angkor Wat is just one temple within a larger complex, so in a half-day we saw the Angkor Wat temple and the Bayon temple. It was more than enough for us! It was very hot again today, so we walked around for about four hours, literally dripping in sweat. We barely made it to noon, so we are not sure how people can walk around all day in these countries! We all are really looking forward to not sweating 24/7 when we get back!

Angkor Wat has a really cool moat surrounding it! No cars are allowed over the moat, so we got to walk across. It was very dramatic. Even though it was a temple, it was reminiscent of a castle.

Before you get to see the actual temple, you go through a pretty legit enterance. The bright blue sky provided an awesome backdrop for the temples and our photos.

We are so glad that we decided to come! After all, it is the reason we decided to come to Cambodia. That and to get another stamp in our passports. It has been nice that we have had so many fun experiences here after going through so much hassle at the border.

Such a big complex!

The temple was mostly long corridors with many small rooms, most likely where the Buddhas sat, off to the sides. There were also a few larger openings in the middle of the temple.  The outside of the temple consisted of many many columns.  The temple was kind of the same thing, over and over again. If there was ever a column, there was 30 columns, or if there was a doorway, there was four doorways in a row. You should be able to see it in the pictures below.

One of the coolest parts of the temple was the fact that there was not one inch that was not well thought out.  Every space on the wall and ceiling was filled with various designs or artwork.  It was very intricate as well and each wall had a different design. I can’t imagine how long it took to complete this place!

There were not any open windows within the temple.  All of the openings had intricately designed spindles covering them. It was so cool! Many of the spindles were broken, however, so there were quite a few openings where we could see the outside of the windows.

We also had the opportunity to go up into a few of the really high temples.  They have made wooden steps over the original rock steps with railings which was necessary because we were basically climbing straight up and down.  There were many restoration projects in place and in progress. A lot of them were related to safety such as putting in wooden steps and mesh wiring on the ceiling to prevent rock from falling on people’s heads. We appreciated it. Being so high up was awesome because it allowed us to see the entire complex!

Straight up and down!

Still lots of detail everywhere!
The original steps..we were thankful for the wooden ones.

Trying not to touch eachothers sweaty bodies. Still so gross!

The two temples we visited were too far apart to walk between, so we hired a driver through our resort! We thought that they were just going to coordinate it for us, but one of the resort employees actually was our driver! He would see us leaving the temple and drive right up to us before getting out and opening our door. We are not used to such exceptional service! We were so exhausted and sweaty at the end that he asked us, “You okay?!”

Riding in style in our Mercedes- Benz van!

One of our least favorite parts of Thailand and Cambodia are the people that constantly heckle us to by things or services. Being a tourist means that you have money!  We had to have been asked if we would like a tour guide or a guide book at least 10 times during our day. In Cambodia, the vendors have been way more aggressive when trying to get our business.  If you walk in their general direction, they literally yell at you. “Cold drink, cold drink! You want elephant pant? 3 dollar, 3 dollar!” We will be glad to get back to America where we are poor college kids and nobody is asking us for money. We realized this is probably what it is like for the rich in America, but instead it is the government asking them to pay absurd amounts in tax money and charities asking for donations. If it is anything like it has been for us, we empathize with them.

No, we do not want a guide book. Or postcards. Or a guide.
I have never been yelled at by so many people at once in my life!

After grabbing some water from one of the aggressive vendors, we headed back to our chauffeur and made our way to the next temple.  This one was a lot more “rustic” and had not been conserved like Angkor Wat had been. There were mostly just original stone steps and lots of crumbled rock everywhere. It was fun to be able to see both and compare.

This temple also had two levels, so we got to get up close and personal with the Buddha faces in the rock. These temples have so much texture and offer so much to look at! Laura, Paige and I climbed up into one of the openings on one of the higher parts of the temple, and awkwardly got trapped by a seniors tour group taking a group photo.

By the end of our stay, we were really draggin. Paige said it best when she said that for every minute we spent at this temple, we lost another body function. Our speech was slurred, we were stumbling, our hair was a mess, we were dripping with sweat. We were literally a hot mess! The funny thing is that our photos don’t show how tired or sweaty we were! We don’t mind:)

After spending a few hours by the pool and relaxing in the AC, we got to take advantage of our free dinner. It was actually a very nice four course meal that was very delicious! We were the only ones in the restaurnt which was actually really fun. Our poor waiter just waited for us to finish each course and had to listen to us laugh during the entire meal. We really need to work on how to be fancy. I accidentally forgot to take a picture of the pumpkin soup because I was too scared to try it and was gauging my travel partners’ reaction. It was actually very good! We even spoiled ourselves and go milkshakes. Life has been good here in Cambodia.

Tomorrow we will be flying back to Bangkok for the night. We will then be flying to Krabi on Saturday for 5 nights. We are so excited to hopefully experience paradise again, but this time on the beach! We will be flying back to America in 1 week! Time flies when you are having fun!