My “Best of Thailand” Recap

What an amazing whirlwind month it was! So many incredible sights, sounds, tastes and experiences, definitely one of my top trips. Highly recommend Thailand as a destination. If you’re thinking about it, do it! My blog covers all the places I went and most of my activities – just use the search tool to get the scoop on the areas that interest you or do a browse and select Thailand for an overview of all the posts. There’s plenty more to see and explore there, but this was all I could pack into my trip. Let me know what spot is your favorite so I can check it out next time. If you have any questions, just send me a note.

Where I went

Bangkok

Chiang Mai

Mae Wang

Chiang Dao

Thaton

Chang Rai

Sukhothai

Ayutthaya

Koh Samui

Koh Phangan

Railay, Krabi

Phuket

What I did

These are my top picks from my month-long adventures

Best active tours: ActiveThailand

Best beach with restaurants, live music & mellow nightlife: Chaloklum Bay, Koh Samui

Best beach resort:  White House, Koh Samui

Best experience: Trekking and mountain biking remote areas of northern Thailand and homestaying with the Karen Hill Tribe

Best food: Chiang Dao Restaurant near the cave  – Chicken Tumeric, Chiang Mai & Bangkok Street Food – pork on a stick

Best health & Fitness Resort: Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort See post.

Best nature preserve island: Naugyuan

Best ruins: Sukkhothai

Best scenery: Railay, Krabi

Best town: Thaton

Best view from the room: Cocohut Beach Resort & Spa, Koh Phangan

Best wildlife: Railay, Krabi

 

Here are some scenes from my last night in Thailand, near the Bangkok airport:

 

Tip: The Paragon Inn is a basic, but decent airport hotel. It’s minutes from the airport and walking distance from the mall and street market. Super convenient for getting those last minute gifts and for catching those early AM flights.

 

 

Can’t emphasize enough how easy and inexpensive it is to tour around Thailand and have an exceptional time.  I’ll share more about what makes it so easy in an upcoming blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of 2 Snorkels, Thailand

 

                                                                                      

 

Trip 1

By speedboat

Gulf of Thailand

Multi-island, plus viewpoint hike & kayak

Lunch buffet

Fish aplenty

Boat trip length 1hr 40 ea way / 3hrs 20

Grand finale: none

 

Trip 2

By longtail boat

Andaman Sea

7 island, plus cave

Sunset BBQ

Fish aplenty

½ hour to 1st island, minutes from island to island

Grand finale: Fire show

Bioluminescent night snorkel

 

Trip 1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

pros

Our first stop was the island of Nangyuan, a pristine, snorkelers’ paradise. It was fun to hike up to the viewpoint and later to take a kayak and cruise along another island’s shore and find my own secluded snorkel spot.

cons

Over 3 hours on a speedboat with 30 plus other people was a bit much. And as you can see by the picture in the slide show, apparently not just for me. On the way back, there were 4 inebriated passengers (predictably 2 Americans and 2 Australians) who turned the boat into a party boat, drinking up a storm and blaring the music…Guess I’m showing my age here, but none of the “younger set” seemed too enthused by this behavior either.

Trip 2

pros

Much more intimate experience with only 6 other people (3 couples) on a longtail boat. Made for some nice conversations and connections.  Cave snorkel was incredible with a huge school of fish. Sunset BBQ was lovely. Fire show was an added perk. The night snorkel with bioluminescent plankton was magical. The light is a result of a series of oxidation reactions in the plankton. It was like having sparklers in the water. Unfortunately, my camera had run out of battery for this. (I was a little concerned about backing into some jellies that I might not see in the dark…)

cons

The guides spoke very little English and had to be reminded to hand out masks and snorkels. They could not identify the large white and pink jellyfish we saw, but did encourage us to get back on the boat. I know some jellyfish are relatively innocuous, but they do have Portuguese-Man-of-War here too… The guides did not point out the attractions on Railay when we docked. Having been there previously, I shared the info with my fellow passengers about the critters (monkeys and water monitor) and Princess Cave.

All said, I would do both again.  Hopefully next time I’ll have a GoPro pre-programmed!

Chiang Dao Cave Adventure

This amazing cave excursion was included as part of our 3 day cycle adventure from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with ActiveThailand. (We lucked out on another “private” tour as there were no other takers in this hottest, off season month. It was AWESOME, highly recommend – more later.)

The story behind this massive limestone cave (penetrating 8 miles into the Doi Chiang Dao mountain) is that a Buddhist monk discovered it 1,000 years ago and decided that it was the perfect place for meditation…Since then, people have been coming to honor the monk and the hermit that lived and died in the cave.

Cave warning signs
Even the disclaimers are so polite here: Dear all tourists….

I felt like I was in Raiders of the Lost Ark in the vast subterranean network of dripping stalacites and other stalagmite formations. I’ve never seen anything like this. If my voice sounds a bit tense, it’s because I’m a bit claustrophobic and not so fond of bats, especially when they are in large quantities…

 

 

 

Everyday has been an amazing adventure here. Some days so packed with spectacular sights and experiences it’s difficult to capture them all. Focus on the highlights you say – they are all highlights I say!

Postscript: After what happened to the Thai soccer team and their coach in the caves of Northern Thailand, I’m not sure I would opt for another cave adventure if I was there again (at least not in the rainy season)…Would you still go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xmas 2016: Honoring the Gift of Health

The fortunate majority of us are born able-bodied and healthy. And then there are those who are not born able-bodied and / or those who must fight and overcome grave illnesses and disabilities every hour of every day.  There are also those who squander their health and quality of life on alcohol or drug abuse, sedentary lifestyles, and sheer gluttony. And those who abuse their bodies in other ways…

Me? I’m guilty of taking the gift of health for granted, for pushing my body beyond its physical limits, feeding it crap (ridiculous amounts of sugar, chocolate, and junk food), and exposing it deliberately and excessively to the elements (sun).

And I’ve suffered the consequences. People are surprised by how many operations I’ve had. My list is getting so long that I can barely keep track anymore. The irony of course, is that I believe I live a relatively healthy lifestyle. Yet, I know plenty of couch potatoes who have never had 1 physical affliction or surgery.

Here’s a glimpse at my surgery dance card:

  1.  Skin cancer surgeries (2) and ongoing freezing pre-cancerous spots (nearly monthly now). (I knew better – no excuses, except my stupidity. 100% Irish, I am the poster child for skin cancer. Ignored my mother and other’s warnings and enjoyed the sun too much without protection.)
  2.  Greater saphenous vein ablation surgery right leg, literally blew this vein out pushing too hard on the bike/racing triathlon.
  3. Kidney stones (6 in ea side): 2 lithotripsy procedures, 1 ureterscopic laser surgery (so much more painful than any stone I have passed) – all due to chronic dehydration,  my self-inflicted pattern of under-hydrating and over exercise. Oh, and I have gallstones too – no surgeries for that yet.
  4. Severe osteoarthrtitis and chrondomalacia in both knees – ongoing knee injections. This was brought on by flat feet and decades of running 5-7 days a week. I literally ran out of cartilage in my knees.
  5. c6 / c7 Neck Fusion (plates & screws) – no single catalyst, just a lifetime of living rough & tumble – probably a childhood pool slide incident combined with a more recent surfing injury.
  6. Cycling accident: Collarbone repair surgery(plate and 8 pins), 2x foot surgery – pins and plates, and a broken 5th metacarpal (pinkie).

EGAD, I know! Clearly I’m not honoring the gift I’ve been given by being a good care taker. I am a huge proponent of living vigorously, but many would argue that I take it to a frenetic level. Of course, it’s all relative. I pale in comparison to others who are far more extreme / intense about their physical activities than I am…Granted, just because there are plenty of people out there who abuse their bodies more than I do, it doesn’t negate the fact that it’s still abuse.

My x-mas holiday was consumed with getting through kidney stone surgery, which of all the surgeries I’ve had, was by far the most painful. It felt like a severe and brutal punishment. Ultimately, I have to face that nearly all my injuries are self-inflicted to some degree. (The picture above is from my first walk outside in 5 days – don’t worry, I didn’t overdo it this time.) So how do I reconcile my passion for activity with my tendency to go overboard and be neglectful? This has been a long, hard lesson and I’m finally getting the message loud and clear. It’s way past time for me to balance living vigorously with nurturing the amazing, strong and vital body that I’ve been given. The joy I get from my outdoor activities is one of my life’s greatest pleasures.Yet I’m driven to push my body to its limits and then neglect it – a mystery for another blog post. Perhaps for tonight,  it’s enough to recognize and begin to correct this tendency – to commit to being a better steward of my health – to balance my rigorous activities with the nurturing and nourishing my body needs – to be a kinder, gentler person to my body, myself and others.

Tell me, how do you honor and nurture your body?

My wish this holiday season is that we see each day as a gift to live our best life – one that honors our bodies, our spirits and those we share the journey with. I’m going to work on it and maybe you guys can help keep me on the path.

Perhaps one word sums it up? Nameste

x-mas-2016