Siem Reap, Cambodia: First Experience at Angkor Archaeological Park

I don’t even know where to start when I think back to my week in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I initially intended staying three full days, which  I was told was plenty of time, but, I ended up staying for six days and LOVED every second of it! It was plenty of days to see both sides of the city, without one spoiling the other!

I knew I wanted to visit Siem Reap because I really wanted to see Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What made it grow higher on my list, was the fact that I’d heard it’s effortless to cross the border between Thailand and Cambodia. It was a no brainer.

I pre-booked my ticket with Giant Ibis through 12go.asia, the best website for booking or researching transportation in Asia. I also decided to apply for my visa ahead of time to save space in my passport. It was honestly SUPER easy in every sense of the way.

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The journey from Bangkok to Siem Reap was estimated to take about 8 hours and took about 9 hours. The bus ride was pretty uneventful with a little confusion at the border. Thankfully, Giant Ibis was there every step of the way.

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Once I physically arrived into Siem Reap, I jumped in a tuk-tuk, which ended up being the best thing that happened, and headed to my hostel, Onederz. Once we arrived at the hostel, my tuk-tuk driver, Morl, mentioned to me that he offers tuk-tuk rides through Angkor Wat. I honestly didn’t know my plans and wanted to “wing it,” so we exchanged numbers, just in case!

Once at the hostel, I ended up meeting a girl, Laura, who together with several others, decided to go ahead with the hostel’s tour of Angkor Wat. I usually wouldn’t do a tour, but I wanted to learn more about the majestic Angkor Wat, and it was only $12.

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One thing I want to explain before I go forward is the currency of Cambodia. Cambodia’s official currency is the riel. However, the majority of the country uses the US dollar, including ATMs, and it was extremely WEIRD going back to the US dollar after being on the Thai baht for seven months. Another thing, Cambodia also doesn’t have coins for their currency since the riel to dollar ratio is 4000:1. Meaning, they’ll give you US dollars for bills, then riels for change. It’s a pretty unique aspect to Cambodia!

The particular tour I did with Onederz Hostel was the Sunrise Tour or Small Circuit tour with a tour guide. You can opt for a tuk-tuk tour without guide for $6, but I thought having a guide would be beneficial for the first time visit.

Angkor Wat blog 1-11Now, something you should know about Angkor Wat is that it is said to be one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world, and I wasn’t going to skip it.

The Sunrise Tour started with the sunrise and a walk around the main Angkor Wat temple learning a little about the history. It continues with a drive through the South Gate and on to Angkor Thom’s Bayon Temple. Next, the tour took us to Ta Prohm (think Tomb Raider), and finished at Banteay Kdei. I’ll go into more details later.

Sunrise tours in Siem Reap typically mean a 4:30/4:45 departure time and this tour wasn’t any different. The primary reason for the SUPER early departure usually depends on if you need a ticket or not, and the sheer volume of tourists visiting sunrise on a single day means traffic.

Angkor Wat tickets can be purchased the day of the sunrise visit very quickly. There are several ticket options for Angkor Wat including a single day entry for $37, a 3-day pass for $62, or a 7-day pass for $72. What’s unique about these multiple-day passes is that they do not need to be used consecutively. The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days, and the 7-day pass is valid for 30 days, which means you have options for visiting the grounds of Angkor Wat and the many, many temples.

Laura and I both opted for the 3-day pass to give us the option for returning to the temples, depending on the tour (which I’m glad we did.) The tour itself started off strong with a good history of Angkor Wat and allowed time to experience things like climbing to a tower for a view or getting blessed by a monk. However, after the first two temples, it started to become nearly impossible to hear the tour guide, and the speed was becoming increasingly fast.

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone in hanging back and ignoring the tour guide. There was another couple who felt very similar to the tour as I did, and the three of us pretty much just took pictures of the majestic temples.

Each temple we visited had a different vibe and look to them. I later found out (thanks Laura for listening) was because of the century in which they were built, the religious entity who they were built for, and the purpose for the building.

The temples of Angkor were built between the 9th and 13th-century, as either a Hindu temple for the Hindu god, Vishnu, or a Buddhist temple, for the Khmer Empire. This means Angkor Wat is a beautiful combination of Hinduism and Buddhism and is currently a Buddist place of worship.

Angkor Wat blog 1-10The largest and main temple on the grounds is Angkor Wat, which faces west and allows the sun to rise directly behind it. This skillful placement is part of why the sunrise at Angkor Wat is one of the most famous sunrises in the world. What’s even more unique, during the equinox, the sun rises in direct alignment with the middle tower. (Without knowing, I was a few days shy of this perfect alignment).

These towers and many throughout the grounds have a particular Lotus flower shape to them. The lotus flower is very symbolic in both Hinduism and Buddhism, meaning divine perfection and purity, respectively. It’s not uncommon to see the symbol of the lotus throughout temples, and Angkor Wat is no exception.

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After we watched the sunrise, our guide took us into the main temple where we learned a little more about the stones, carvings, and design of the temple. We were given some time alone to explore and had to opportunity to be blessed by a monk. It was extremely spiritual.

We continued our tour to Bayon, a late 12th-early 13th-century Buddhist temple, known for smiling stone faces. It was starting to get ridiculously crowded with tourists, so it was here that I chose to hang back from the tour guide and take in the serenity of the temple.

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Next on the tour was the second most famous temple at the park, Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is the temple best known for the trees, which have grown through the stone and have become one with the structures. It is why its nickname is “The Jungle Temple.” It is also the location where parts of Tomb Raider was filmed. Unfortunately, the majestic site was lost to the glob of tourists, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I was hoping. I felt very rushed and at times, felt like a sardine.

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Our final location was Banteay Kdei, another Buddhist temple built in the mid 12th- early 13th-century. At this point of the day (it’s only 1 pm), my brain was slowly fading, and I don’t remember much of the history of this temple. Having started the day at 4:30 am, I was ready to be done. This, I would say, is a con to taking an organized tour vs. hiring a tuk-tuk driver.

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We finally returned to the hostel after an extremely long and hot day exploring Angkor, and I wasn’t up for much the rest of the day. After a short nap, Laura and I met to discussed plans for the next day, and concluded with asking Morl to be our driver/guide for the day! Although I was ready to be done for the day, I wasn’t ready to be done with Angkor. Stay tuned for another journey through Angkor Archaeological Park!

Elephants, Scooters, and Boats: 2 Friends in Thailand Final Days

It’s hard to believe how quickly a week vacation went with my friend Chris, but all good thing must come to an end, right? (okay, maybe not always)

Thankfully, it wasn’t quite over. Even though we were set to leave Phuket to head back towards Bangkok, Chris didn’t actually fly out till Sunday afternoon. So, technically, we had another day and a half, which between the two of us, was plenty of time to do a few more things!

We did allow ourselves to sleep-in Saturday morning, which was much needed before we wandered Patong Beach to find breakfast. After breakfast, we ended up finding smoothies and a fish massage place. I think that’s what it’s called. You know, those big tanks of tiny fish that you put your feet into and the tiny fish eat the dead skin. That’s what we decided to do on our last day in Phuket, fish massages.

It was one of the strangest feelings, and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like a mix between a pedicure, tickling sensation, and mini, painless pinches over your entire foot.

We originally paid for 15 minutes, but the guy allowed us to stay for like 30 minutes. It was pretty excessive but it’s Thailand! We even kept telling him we were ready to be done, but he just sat there.

Once we finished with our fish massage, it was time we started gathering our things to wait for our taxi, which itself was slightly stressful, as our taxi was quite late. Good thing Phuket International Airport was a smaller airport and we were only taking a domestic flight.

The flight back to Bangkok was uneventful, and we quickly found our way to our hostel. When we initially planned this trip, I booked the two of us in a dorm room, but after a few days, I changed to a private room, to allow Chris the ability to spread out and pack easier.

The hostel, Niras Bangkoc Cultural Hostel, was located in the heart of Bangkok and is located across the street from a very famous restaurant. However, I didn’t know that at the time of the booking, but defiantly good to know for future reference.

Our night wasn’t that eventful. It was mostly Chris gathering a few last-minute items and walking around the neighborhood we were staying. The neighborhood was full of beautiful temples, a bit of traffic, and was close to the Giant Swing, a common tourist spot. Honestly, it was a bit underwhelming and uneventful, but I guess I can say we’ve seen it.

The next day, we woke up with little plans. However, since it was a Sunday, Chatuchak Weekend Market would be open. It’s one of the top things to see in Bangkok, and it’s where Chris and I decided to spend our half day.

Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the world’s largest weekend markets. It covers nearly 27 acres of land, has well over 15,000 booths, and is the perfect place to gather souvenirs or wander around.

I’ve been before, and since I was at the start of my 6-week backpacking adventure, I wasn’t really in the market for shopping, but it sure was fun watching Chris look around.

Our time quickly came to an end, and before I knew it, Chris and I were in a Grab taxi heading to the airport. Saying goodbye to Chris was hard, as it was so refreshing having a friend who knows me well, but it also meant that I was about to embark on my longest solo adventure ever.

After Chris left, I only had two things on my to-do list before changing hostels. First thing I needed to do was…get my second anti-rabies shot at a local hospital (SUPER EASY). The second thing I needed to do was to head to a mall and purchase a new GoPro because mine decided to break while on our Phi Phi Islands boat tour.

Thankfully, regarding my GoPro, I pay for GoPro Plus, which means I can send in my broken GoPro under warranty and get a new one. However, since I’m in Thailand, I needed to send it home with Chris to the USA to be covered, which just meant, I GOT TO BUY THE GOPRO 7, which is AMAZING!!! And I did!

My night concluded with me changing hostels, showering, and sleeping. I was heading off to Cambodia in the morning on a bus, and I didn’t want to miss it or be too tired.

Stay tuned for stories and adventures of my 19th country and second country of Southeast Asia!!!

Elephants, Scooters, and Boats: 2 Friends in Thailand Day 6

Today was one of those days where we didn’t plan what we wanted to do until I think the day before, maybe two days earlier. I had a semi-rough idea of what we could do, but I didn’t want to set anything in stone until Chris arrived and we could see where the trip took us.

Together, after a few options were discussed, we decided on another boat day. Except for this time, instead of a sunset cruise, we decided on a sunrise speed boat tour to the Phi Phi Islands. The particular tour we decided on was called The Beach Sea Trips, which I’m pretty sure we found at the stand where we rented our motor scooters.

The Phi Phi Islands are kind of a MUST SEE when you come to the west coast of Thailand. They are what most people think of when they think of Thailand, and I’m not going to lie when I say, I was really excited about this particular trip! It would be the furthest south I’ve ever been (at this point in time).

As I mentioned early, this trip was a sunrise boat trip, which meant another super early morning after a late night (remember I was bitten by a monkey and was at the hospital till well close to, maybe even after midnight). Thankfully, Chris is a morning bird and had enough time before our pick up arrived to get us some coffee! (Coffee is a wonderful thing).

The driver drove us to the starting point of the tour, which was at a marina a decent 40-minute drive away, but thankfully, once we arrived and checked in, the company provided breakfast! During breakfast was when they went over the itinerary and the safety features, so no significant time was spent on the boat! Always a good perk to a sunrise not trip!

To say we were ready to board the boat is an understatement. I was, to be honest, just tired of standing around and listening to people talk. I wanted to be back on the water in a speed boat, jetting off towards the sun. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved Thailand, but the boat life in the Caribbean has been something I’ve majorly missed.

I was so happy when we finally left the marina and speeded off directly into the sun towards the first stop of the day- Maya Bay located on Koh Phi Phi Ley.

Let me start off by saying this, Maya Bay is indefinitely closed as it succumbed to over tourism and Thailand decided that, to bring it back to its beauty, it needs to remain tourist-free. Maya Bay was made famous by the 2000 movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio and quickly rose to fame as a Thailand hotspot. Now, you can only witness this beautiful beach from a distance.

After a few short minutes, we headed to our next location, Loh Sama Bay, which literally was on the backside of the Koh Phi Phi Ley where Maya Bay is located. This time, we were FINALLY able to jump into the beyond crystal turquoise blue water! That wasn’t all, located in this little reef area behind Maya Beach, were cute and tiny baby reef sharks 🙂

We stayed in this spot for about 30ish minutes, and when we were ready to take off, Chris happened to be quite far from the boat and struggling to get back to the boat due to a current. According to Chris, swimming is not his thing. Makes for a great story though!!

The next location on this boat trip turned into an ultimate fail. Apparently, the tide doesn’t always work in favor of the boat, and on this particular day, the tide at Pileh Lagoon was just that. The entrance was just too shallow and the boat, with the motors practically out of the water, was unable to pass over the sand bar. It would have been a great spot for more swimming, but it was just in the plans.

Thankfully, it’s not like this was the end of the boat trip. We had barely just begun, so with little hesitation, we continued on our way with a small, just slow enough to see it, drive by, of a place called Viking Cave, which is still located on Koh Phi Phi Ley.

I wish I could tell you more about Viking Cave, but I just don’t have any answers. I was more curious about this Monkey Beach and Monkey Cliff I kept hearing our tour guide mentioning.

Did you read about yesterdays mishap with a monkey? Can you now understand my curiosity? A Monkey Beach with a monkey cliff?

It was pretty much exactly what it sounds like; a beach of monkeys and a cliff of monkeys. It was pretty entertaining watching these monkeys JUMP off the cliff and into the sea, then back up the ropes. It was slightly touristy, and boats were feeding the monkeys bananas, which I know might not be ethical and does cause monkeys to become aggressive when they are on the beach, but I still enjoyed it.

After a few entertaining jumps from the monkeys and soaking up the beautiful island cliffs, we continued to our next location, a beachside restaurant for our lunch. This restaurant is a part of a beach resort located on Laemtong Beach. That’s honestly all I remember. Well, that and that the food was delicious!

After lunch, we headed to Long Beach, located on Koh Phi Phi Don. I’ll explain this to you quickly. Koh Phi Phi Ley is the smaller of the two islands, and Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger island. Okay, let’s continue.

Long Beach is located on the southeast corner of Koh Phi Phi Don, between several resorts and this is where Chris finally got his “James Bond” long boat moment. This beach had several long boats anchored on the beach right next to each other and was a perfect location for his moment.

Chris and I being the crazy, non-stop movers as we are, decided to grab a beer and take a walk down the beach, over a rocky corner, down a smaller beach, and over another rocky corner. It was at this point that we noticed the “Viking” sign. Come to find out, this is the location of the Viking Resort, but I did not know that at the time.

It was here where we had a mini-photoshoot on the rocky corner with the picturesque Thailand background, long boats included. I, of course, struggled slightly with the rocky coastline and may have slipped a couple of times, but never fully fell. Chris, being the amazing photographer that he is, captured it ALL on camera.

Next, we continued on our way and headed to Bamboo Island, a tiny island located just north of Koh Phi Phi Don and home to a beautiful white, sandy beach. But, before we made anchor on our final white, sandy beach of the day, we anchored off the coastline and did some more snorkeling!

This was a huge highlight for me, because…I SAW A ZEBRA SHARK. This was my first and as of now, my only time seeing a zebra shark. Talk about a random wildlife encounter! Chris even got to swim with the shark! Talk about memories in the making!

It was finally time to head to our final stop along our Phi Phi tour, Bamboo Beach. Chris, at this point, had another item off his want list. He wanted to drink a coconut on a beach and thanks to our fellow boatmates, they gave us one of their coconuts, as they didn’t like it! You could say our boating day around the Phi Phi Islands have been an utter success!!

The best part was that our day didn’t end with the boat trip. When we returned to the marina, it was only like 3pm, but we were spent and knew we needed to rest before heading out on the town!

Our night was a pretty simple night, but one thing was certain, we needed to complete our week in paradise with one final Thai massage. After all, Chris’s first experience wasn’t a true Thai massage. But this one was. There were moments during our massages, where the masseuses and myself were laughing because of the noises Chris was making.

I will say this, a Thai massage is nothing like the typical massage you might think of in America. It’s not relaxing AT ALL, so I understood where Chris was coming from, but it was still kind of funny, and a perfect end to our amazing week in Phuket.

We still have one half day left in Phuket before our flight the next day, so stay tuned for one final post on my time in Thailand with my good friend Chris!

Elephants, Scooters, and Boats: 2 Friends in Thailand- Day 5

We woke up extremely early on our 5th day. Reason? We still had a few more hours left with our scooters, and we wanted to see the sunrise, but not just any regular sunrise. We wanted to see the sun come up at the famous Phuket landmark, The Great Buddha of Phuket, also known as Big Buddha.

Big Buddha is a beautifully built, 18-meter tall statue located high on a mountain facing east, towards Ao Chalong Bay. Although parts of the grounds are still under construction, you can see why Big Buddha is a popular destination for locals and tours alike.

Because Chris and I are both morning people (when I want to be, I should clarify), we jetted off towards Big Buddha during the wee hours of the morning. I think it was something like 4:45-5am. It only took us about 30 minutes to drive our scooters to the location, and about 10 of those minutes were spent driving around and up the mountain, arriving before the sky started to light up.

It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived, so I was able to search out a place to attempt to capture a timelapse of the sunrise with my GoPro. (This is an essential part to the story). Everything was going perfect. The sun started to wake, the sky was turning beautiful colors, and everything was quiet. That was until the monkeys appeared.

Monkeys are known to be ruthless little creatures and scavengers on the hunt for food. In my case, one monkey was heading right towards me and getting a little aggressive. Then it started towards my GoPro. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. So, I grabbed my GoPro, which of course, pissed this monkey off. Next thing I know, the monkey jumped on my back and attempted to bite me. It all happened so fast that I honestly couldn’t tell if he made contact with me or not, as he tried to bite my upper back between my shoulder blades. Two ladies, who were nearby, saw this event take place and were kind enough look on my back for any signs of bite marks. Sure enough, the little bugger broke the skin; not deep enough to cause bleeding, but he did break it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Why did I reach for my GoPro? Monkeys are known to be carriers, though not frequent, for rabies, and I put myself at risk by going after my GoPro. GoPros are not cheap, and I knew if this monkey got it, it would be gone forever. So, I took a chance.

I told Chris what happened with the monkey and texted my mom, who I am sure LOVED getting that text message. The three of us went back and forth about the rabies vaccination and ultimately decided it would be stupid not to get the shots. It’s just not worth the risk EVER.

Unfortunately, Chris and I had a prebooked boat tour for the afternoon and knew we would not have enough time to go to the hospital before the tour. I understand this probably isn’t the smartest thing, but I wasn’t worried and didn’t want to miss out on Pha Nang Bay, so we postponed getting the vaccination until after the tour.

At this point, it is now 7 am. We were both starting to get hungry, and both in desperate need of coffee. What I didn’t mention from yesterday, was that Chris and I stumbled across this random coffee shop on our drive home from sunset. We were curious about it, so we decided that we needed to make a visit before returning to Patong.

Yes Coffee, we found, was established to support underprivileged people in Thailand. It is more than just a roastery. It is also a school, which provides Burmese migrant children with education and currently has about 50 students and employs three teachers. Talk about a hidden gem of Phuket. Stumbling across this coffee shop was, for me, a major highlight of the trip. I genuinely love supporting businesses like Yes Coffee.

With the time of the tour creeping close and our time with the scooters about to expire, we headed back to Patong and our hostel. We had enough time to change into our suits and gather our things before we headed out towards the marina for our tour.

Now, something you should know about Chris is that he is an incredibly active man, so when looking for tours, I knew I needed to find something more than just sitting on a boat. With all the research I conducted, this tour, John Gray Sea Canoe “Hong by Starlight” was rated exceptionally well. I knew it would be an excellent way to see the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, which I really wanted to see because this bay has what seems like hundreds of tiny islands clustered together creating a breathtaking scene. I couldn’t let either of us leave Phuket or Thailand without seeing this site, so this was the tour I decided we needed to experience.

Okay, back to the day. It didn’t take us long after our arrival to the marina before we boarded the double-decker boat. The main level is a full kitchen because shortly after we left the port and on our way towards the Hong Islands, we were served a delicious lunch with a beautiful selection of Thai food.

Something exceptional about this company is that one guide is assigned to each kayak and they paddle the sea canoe

“through “Tidal Nape” Sea Caves literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine limestone karstic islands into “Hongs “(Thai for “Room”)”

https://www.johngray-seacanoe.com/trips/thailand/day-trips/hong-by-starlight.html

Our first sea canoe adventure took us through a tight cave, requiring us to lay completely flat, before opening to an extremely shallow mangrove lagoon. We were even giving the chance to stand in the middle of this lagoon. I mean, really, a once in a lifetime opportunitiy.

We continued to our next location, which was a larger cluster of several islands and lagoons. These lagoons were a bit deeper, and after our first time through with the guide, we were given a chance to go back alone and explore. Chris took the paddle and guided our sea canoe back to the lagoons. This was another major highlight for both of us because once we headed back, we found ourselves alone in the middle of an island in the middle of Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. It was so beautiful and peaceful. Truly a special moment shared with two friends.

The next adventure, which was another reason I selected this tour, included making our own krathong with the help of our guide. A krathong, which is a floating flower offering/basket that is a part of a spiritual ceremony which pays respect to the water spirits during a festival called Loi Krathong. I had the opportunity to participate in the festival in November, and I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural symbolism of the festival and felt that Chris would too. So, after we finished creating our krathong, and after eating a delicious dinner while watching the sunset, our guide lead us through a dark cave with bioluminescence. The cave ended in a beautiful lagoon, where we found our own quiet corner, lit our krathong, and released it into the water, making our wish.

Unfortunately, these quiet, special moments can’t last forever, and it was time we started heading back into port. It was quite late by the time we finally arrived back to our hostel and knew we had another super early sunrise wake up the next day, so we quickly headed to bed.

Stay tuned for the next blog, where Chris and I take another boating adventure to the Phi Phi Islands!!

Elephants, Scooters, and Boats: 2 Friends in Thailand- Day 4

We had another peaceful morning in the dorm, as our dorm-mates did not arrive home until close to 6 am in the morning. We, mostly me, decided to sleep in a bit this particular morning since we knew we were going to have sunrise-early mornings over the next couple of days.

Our hostel, Bearpacker Hostel in Patong, had been EXTREMELY helpful with any questions we asked about “what to do” in Phuket and guided us to the decision of motor scooter rentals for the day. They were able to provide us with a motor scooter rental place near the hostel. The rental place charges 300 baht per day, which is roughly $10, and we knew we’d only really need the scooter for one day. We had another excursion per booked for Thursday and Wednesday was kind of our only free exploration day!

As I mentioned early, we had a late start to our morning but still managed to get out of Patong before noon. If you don’t know anything about Phuket then let me tell you this, Phuket is a decently sized island with very few main roads and Patong, where we were staying, is a beach town on the island but is not the main city of the island. That city is called Phuket City, or in Thai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket. Amphoe Mueang indicates the primary city of a province or island, Amphoe means the second largest city, and ban means a suburb or neighborhood of that specific location. For us, we knew our first destination of our “Tour de Phuket Motor-scooter Adventure” needed to be the main city to explore the historic “Old City of Phuket City.”

Chris, I must say, was quite the natural scooter driver! He didn’t hesitate to jump on his own bike and follow me as we headed eastbound on a hectic road. I didn’t really know where our final destination was going to be, but we had an area in mind. It didn’t take us very long to arrive into the Old City, and after driving for a tiny bit, we found a cute coffee shop called Old Phuket Coffee “Coffee Station” and decided to park and have something to drink.

I was kind of a lousy tour guide at this point because I honestly didn’t do much research on things to do in the Old City and wasn’t totally sure of what we should do. Thankfully, Chris is a pretty easy going guy, so he was up for just wandering and wandering we did.

After a while, we decided it was time to take off to another location, and this location I knew about beforehand. If you know anything about me, you’ll know I love a good beer or liquor tasting. I love learning about how each distillery or brewery makes their products and if there is anything special about these products. In Phuket, there just happens to be a unique rum distillery located in another neighborhood that I thought would be a fun destination. At the time I told Chris about it, I didn’t know just how unique it was,. I honestly thought it would just be fun to say we’ve toured a rum distillery in Thailand.

Chalong Bay Rum Distillery, located in Chalong Bay, makes their rum from sugarcane, which differs from other rums distilled. Most rum is made from molasses, including the rums made in the Caribbean. In fact, they told us that less than 5% of all white rum is made directly from sugarcane and that Thailand, which has over 200 types of sugarcane, is the 4th largest producer.

Did you know sugarcane actually originated in southeast Asia and was exported to the French Caribbean by Christopher Columbus? MIND BLOWN. I had NO IDEA. I’ve even been to rum distilleries before, but never knew this piece of information. It was quite a fantastic experience at Chalong Bay Rum Distillery learning about how uniquely special it was and getting my first taste of Thailand sugarcane white rum. We even got to try their famous mojito and 4 different flavored rums. Totally worth the visit!

From the rum distillery, we headed south towards an area called “Fit Street.” Why? Well, a friend of a friend of a friend of mine from Arizona actually coaches CrossFit at one of the big gyms in Chalong, and I thought it would be fun to see how these Muay Thai gyms run. Holy smokes, I was NOT prepared for what I witnessed. Her particular gym, Tiger Muay Thai, was MASSIVE. It was quite the sight to see how many people are training for mixed martial arts, Muay Thai and CrossFit all in the same area! Joy was a perfect tour guide to her gym, and I’m so thankful with her kindness to two complete strangers.

Since Joy lived in Phuket, she was also an excellent resource for things to do, and at this point of the evening, we were closing in on sunset. Joy was able to provide us with a few places we could go to watch the sunset along the western coastline.

One of the places she mentioned, which I’ve read about from other sources, was Promthep Cape. We thought it sounded like a great place to go, so we jumped back on our bikes and headed southwest to this cape. It was extremely populated with easily over 100+ humans, and unfortunately, the sunset was not that great…or, so we thought.

We ended up leaving the cape because of how non-climatic the sunset had been and began driving back north towards Patong with Chris in the lead. All of a sudden, Chris turns into a beach parking lot. This is one of those totally Mapless Adventures. It wasn’t a very large beach, but it had these beautiful rock formations. Once we arrived at this random beach (later found out it was called Yanui Beach), the sunset turned the sky into beautiful shades of pink and purple. Absolutely breathtaking. Of course, a mini photoshoot occurred with me totally not understanding what Chris was trying to tell me, and well the pictures speak for themselves.

After sunset, we continued on our way, driving through Kata Beach and Karon Beach before returning to Bearpacker Hostel. We both decided it was better to keep the bikes for the next morning even though we had a tour because our tour wasn’t until 11:30 and that was plenty of time to see the sunrise at another popular location.

Our night didn’t end here. Once we returned from our motor scooter adventure, we headed out for dinner and decided tonight was a perfect night for a Thai massage. We chose a place close to the market near our hostel, but unfortunately, Chris’s first experience with a Thai massage wasn’t very traditional. I was a bit sad because I was really hoping he’d get a great experience. It just meant we would need to get another one before the week was over.

As per usual, our night ended reasonably late even though we had another early, early morning for sunrise, but thankfully our dorm-mates went out partying, so we had the place to ourselves.

Stay tuned for our next day’s adventure, which I will call “MONKEY.” You won’t want to miss this travel story!