How to Be a Responsible Traveler in Thailand

october thailand long tail boats

Thailand is an extremely popular tourist destination that is full of a huge number of wonderful and unforgettable experiences. Whether you want to live like a local, see the sights, relax on a beach or party hard, Thailand will have something for you. However, it is important to remember to ‘travel right’ when you visit these unique islands. From expensive hotels to elephant sanctuaries, there is a lot of darkness that may be hiding behind these dreamlike experiences. There are some phenomenal places that will benefit the locals, the wildlife and your experience, and the key to traveling right is to do it responsibly.koh poda thailand

To help you get the best out of your trip in the kindest and most ethical way possible, here are some tips to keep in mind.

The Wildlife

Getting up close and personal to Asian elephants is something that every Thai tourist wants to do. In Thailand, you will come across animal sanctuaries, parks or orphanages full of ‘domesticated’ wild animals that cannot be released into their natural habitat. While some of these sanctuaries are legit and take care of their animals properly, many will encompass a wide range of activities, from riding to circus-like shows, which involve cruel methods to ‘break’ the animals’ spirit. If you want to experience Thailand’s wildlife, you must research and avoid making incorrect assumptions about these parks.

elephant swimming

The Environment

Choosing your beach wisely is an important part of being a responsible traveler in Thailand. Many beaches have experienced damage from waste and development, to the point where many consider them to be unsavable. Thailand has an amazing coastline and 1400 islands, so there will many that remain completely natural and free from development.

You should also stay in sustainable and eco-friendly accommodation, so that you support and contribute towards the right businesses and keep them afloat. As well as this, remember to use resources carefully, as it is common for islands to have limited resources.koh tao island

The People

Unfortunately, poverty levels are high in Thailand. The high cost of living, alongside the shockingly low minimum wage, makes it hard for many workers to have a decent life. Workers’ rights aren’t always put in place and just because a hotel looks amazing, it does not mean that they are ethically or morally kind. The best thing you can do to support the local people is to leave tips for serving staff, drivers, chambermaids and porters, even in all-inclusive resorts. These small contributions may not seem like much, but they will make a big difference to how much they take home to their family.chiang mai parade boy

The Culture

In order to make things enjoyable and easier for you and the people you meet along the way, you’ll want to get immersed in the local culture. This includes learning the native language, which is Thai. You can learn the basics online, which will get you further than you think. The citizens will appreciate the effort and will instantly warm up to you, making it easier to make your way around the country. Developing cultural self-awareness and learning how to value and appreciate diverse views, but in an ethical way, is important when it comes to being a responsible traveler, as it shows others respect and gratitude.sukothai sitting buddha

Being vigilant and doing your research into an experience or accommodation facility beforehand is essential to getting the most out of your trip to Thailand in a responsible and ethical way. One person making the right decision may not seem like much, but if everyone followed their lead, then the dark trades would go out of business and cease to exist. When you travel right, you will be safer too.

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Thai Island Bliss: Koh Yao Yai & Koh Yao Noi

thailand koh yao noi

Even though I’ve been to Thailand three times, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the Land Of Smiles, or its many islands. I’ve been to Koh Chang in the Gulf of Thailand (did you know that there’s another Koh Chang in the Andaman Sea?), I’ve been to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, to the Phi Phi Islands and Koh Poda, and to Koh Lanta. My Thai island wish list is long though: I’ve yet to visit Koh Lipe (highest on my list), Koh Mook and Koh Kood, Koh Samet and Koh Mak.

So when I spontaneously decided to add on a quick island getaway to Thailand to my Singapore trip a couple of months ago, I knew I had to check out a new island instead of returning to old favorites (sorry Koh Tao!). When I consulted the map to see which island would make the most sense, I zeroed in on not one, but two islands: the Yao Islands. And both, Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, happen to be two islands that have been on my Thailand wish list for years – score!dani thailand 2017 jumpThe Koh Yao island group is made up of 44 islands in total, but only the two largest ones, Koh Yao Noi (Little Long Island) and Koh Yao Yai (Big Long Island), are inhabited. The smaller islands can be visited but don’t have hotels or resorts. Both islands are surrounded by a number of uninhabited scenic limestone karst rocks, a typical feature of the Andaman Sea.

The reason the two sister islands caught my attention for this getaway was their location in Phang Nga Bay, right in between Krabi on the mainland and the island of Phuket.flying into phuketThanks to their proximity to Phuket, and many direct flights between Singapore and Phuket, I thought it would be super easy to get there. We would take a taxi straight from the airport to the ferry pier in Phuket and hop on the 30-minute speed boat to Koh Yao Yai. From there, we’d take another ferry to Koh Yao Noi. Easy breezy.

Was it as easy as it seemed? Absolutely. And while I initially thought it may be stressful to squeeze in both islands instead of one, this turned out to be a great decision, because I found the islands to be fairly different. If you have time constraints though and only have time to visit one, here’s my rundown on both islands and which one I liked best, including practical information on how to get to the islands and recommendations for places to stay. I hope this will help you decide which island to visit: Koh Yao Yai or Koh Yao Noi.flying to phuket

Koh Yao Yai : Jungle and Solitude

Koh Yao Yai was the first island we visited, and on the ride in the Songthaw (shared pickup truck) from the ferry pier to our hotel, the lush green jungles bordering the road reminded me of Koh Chang. There is only one main road that circles nearly the entire island, and a few additional small side roads. No matter where you drive, you’re almost always surrounded by lush jungle scenery. Occasionally, you pass a small village, but mostly there are just clusters of simple houses and maybe a simple village shop or two.

Our hotel was on the western coast of the island, meaning we didn’t get to see any of the glorious Thai sunsets, which was a bit of a shame. Our small resort right by the beach was lovely, but there wasn’t anything to do there except for taking walks along the beach, taking a kayak out for a ride around the bay, or lounging by the pool. Since most resorts seem to be like this – small bungalow villages along the coast, with not much surrounding them – if you want to see the island, you have no choice but to rent a scooter.thailand koh yao yai beachYou could get by with the private songthaws (your hotel will call them for you), but honestly, this is a pretty limited way to get around, since they transport you from A to B rather than showing you the island. After walking along the road for a bit on our first day to see if we could get anywhere on foot (nope!), I realized I had no choice but to get over my fear of scooters if I wanted to see something of the island other than our hotel.thailand koh yao yaiScooter rentals are between THB250 and THB300 (US$7.70 – $9.20) for 24 hours, and after getting back in the saddle it didn’t take me long to feel confident enough not only to cruise down the main road – where luckily, there was barely any traffic – but also a few of the smaller dirt roads which led to some hidden beaches.Koh Yao Noi ThailandKoh Yao Yai was a little bit bigger than expected, with a population of about 8,000, but even in the main village on the island it never felt like it was busy.

We spent a few days on the island just cruising around on our scooter, following the random signs pointing to mysterious sights like ‘viewpoint’ or ‘hidden beach’. We never ran into crowds – we’d see one or two other tourists at most, no matter if we were walking on a beach or stopped for a coffee.koh yao yai beachThere was one exception, White Sand Beach, which sits on the western coast of the island and is a perfect spot for sunset watching. This stretch of beach had a few of the typical wooden swings that you find on many of Thailand’s beaches, as well as a few stalls selling drinks and food. I’d assume that it gets busier here during high season, but when I visited, there were only a handful of other tourists around.thailand koh yao noi banoffee pieThe only larger village on Koh Yao Yai is  – right by White Sand Beach – where we found the Iyara Cafe, a small cafe with hot and iced coffee drinks and small bites, clearly catering towards Western tourists.

Finding good coffee was one of our main quests on the island, because it turned out that good coffee wasn’t as easy to come by as it had been in Singapore, where we’d spent the weekend before.

Other than the Iyara Cafe, there was the Chada Cafe, a brand new, air conditioned, little glass container on the side of the main road, conveniently located for a quick caffeine (and AC!) stop during our daily island explorations.koh yao noi viewsAfter a couple of days of cruising around the island we felt like we’d seen all there was to see, and since neither one of us is someone who can sit still (or lounge by the pool for too long), we decided that it was time to hop on the ferry over to Koh Yao Noi, Koh Yao Yai’s smaller sister island.koh yao yai pier

Koh Yao Noi: Island Bliss & Luxury Resorts

The ‘ferry’ turned out to be a long-tail boat that we had to ourselves, and only ten minutes later we found ourselves on Koh Yao Noi. We hopped in a songthaw that brought us to our hotel, a small bungalow resort conveniently located within walking distance to the island’s main beach and tourist area.koh yao yai ferry daniWhile the touristy area on this island felt far more developed than on Koh Yao Yai, it was still just a short one kilometer long stretch of beach which was lined with small hotels and a number of bars and restaurants. The beach was separated from the restaurants by the main road around the island, which has sections that follow the shoreline. Don’t be put off by the thought of having a road there though, when we were there, just before the main season started, it was anything but busy, and I can’t see it getting very busy, even during the busiest months (December – March).koh yao noi thailandKoh Yao Yai is so close to Koh Yao Noi that you could easily connect them with a short bridge, and yet the islands feel worlds apart. This time, we decided not to wait and rented a scooter right away. As soon as we checked into our hotel, we hopped on our scooter to explore the island.

Even though this island is smaller than Koh Yao Yai, it felt more developed. There were more restaurants and cafes, and the largest village on the island was bustling every time we stopped there. This is where you find the typical street food stalls selling meat on sticks or banana roti, something we hadn’t really seen on Koh Yao Yai. So if you’re looking for a better developed tourist infrastructure and are not sure if you should visit Koh Yao Yai or Koh Yao Noi, this is something to consider.thailand mango and sticky riceThe little village even had a couple of tourist shops selling clothes and souvenirs, and Faye’s Taste Of Koh Yao, a lovely restaurant serving organic food, which is worth a stop – for a refreshing fruit shake or lemonade at least.

On our first full circle around the island, we came across rubber farms, jungles, water buffaloes bathing shoulder deep in mud puddles, and deserted beaches.koh yao noi rice fieldsOn the west coast, we explored a fishing village on stilts, but our favorite part was the rice paddies in the southeast. The lush green fields looked beautiful against the bright blue sky, and it was so tranquil there that it was impossible not to feel utterly relaxed.

Except for the occasional local passing us on their scooter, there was barely any traffic. It felt almost surreal to think that touristy Phuket was just a half-hour boat ride away. This serene little island felt like it was worlds away from malls and party beaches.koh yao noi beachThat being said, I should mention that Koh Yao Noi was definitely not the hidden gem it was once known as – one of the last unspoiled islands. Over the past few years, several fancy hotels and resorts have popped up on the island, including the fabulous Cape Kudu, which I marveled at every time we rode by, and where I’d love to stay during my next visit 🙂koh yao noi daniHowever, these resorts are in no way to be compared with the massive resorts in Phuket – they are all small and built in a tasteful way, aiming to fit in with their natural environment.

Whereas we had a hard time finding good food and coffee on Koh Yao Yai, there was no shortage of eateries and cafes on this island. We actually had a hard time fitting in all the places we wanted to try. We loved Cafe Kantary, but considering it belongs to the Cape Kudu hotel, that shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise.koh yao noi beersThe nearby Chaba Cafe & Gallery was our favorite place for healthy smoothies, iced coffees, breakfasts and salads – we couldn’t get enough of this quirky little restaurant. The only disappointment was pizzeria La Luna, which had rave reviews online but didn’t live up to our expectations (we do live in New York though – hard to please our pizza-spoiled stomachs!). We preferred the Thai dishes at Baan Chang and Kaya, and usually stopped at a street food stall selling roti (pancakes) near the Pasai seafood restaurant for dessert.thailand koh yao noi breakfastAround there we also found a kayak rental place and rented a kayak for the afternoon to paddle out to Koh Nok, an uninhabited nearby islet that is famous for its viewpoint and deserted beaches. The beaches weren’t all that deserted, however, because several ‘island hopping’ day cruises stopped there, but luckily almost all of them left not long after we arrived.koh nook islandMuch to our surprise, there was a viewpoint on top of the limestone cliff that makes up the larger part of the island, but getting there required climbing up a steep, rocky dirt path which could in parts only be conquered with the help of hanging ropes. Had we known about this viewpoint, we would have brought our shoes, because it was impossible to climb barefoot – our shoes were back on the shore on Koh Yao Noi. I bet the views from the viewpoint are incredible.thailand flying into phuketJust as on neighboring Koh Yao Yai, there’s not all that much to do on this little island, but that is exactly what we wanted. We weren’t looking for big parties at night – a couple of sunset beers was as ‘wild’ as we got during our time on the island, and we appreciated the low-key atmosphere. There are a few bars along the main beach area where we were staying, but we didn’t see any big parties like Phuket is known for. Instead of going out at night, we retreated to the hammocks on our balcony with a book, and I was usually up bright and early for a solitary beach walk.koh yao noi sunsetOn one of our exploratory tours of the island we followed a sign to a waterfall, and one day we took advantage of the low tide in the morning to walk over to Ko Nok, a tiny uninhabited islet out in the ocean that is connected to Koh Yao Noi by a sandbank at low tide (not the same Koh Nok we kayaked, too, by the way).

It felt refreshing not having to tick off a number of sights, but instead simply hopping on our scooter to see where the road would take us, and being able to stop whenever we wanted.Koh Yao Noi Thailand

Koh Yao Noi Vs. Koh Yao Yai – Which Island Is Better?

When we first decided to visit the Koh Yao islands, we thought about visiting only one of them. But then the curiosity to see both won, and we split our time evenly between both islands. In hindsight, I am glad that we went to both islands, even though I have to admit that I preferred the vibe on Koh Yao Noi. While both islands are equally beautiful, I found the food options on Koh Yao Yai  lacking and the beaches on Koh Yao Noi  a little nicer.Koh Yao Noi ThailandSome people may prefer the less touristy feel of Koh Yao Yai, but I appreciated that on Koh Yao Noi we were able to walk to several restaurants and cafes and had a couple of beaches to choose from close to our bungalow, whereas on Koh Yao Yai, it felt like we had to always hop on the scooter to get anywhere, especially when we wanted to go out for dinner or drinks.

One day I overheard a conversation between the lady who ran our bungalow resort on Koh Yao Noi  and a couple of guests who were thinking about going down to Koh Yao Yai. She recommended going only for a day, and I think that would indeed be enough time to see all of the island. That said, I don’t regret having spent a few nights on the island, but if I was going to plan the same trip again, I’d definitely spend more time on Koh Yao Noi  than an even amount of nights on both islands.Koh Yao Noi Thailand

Koh Yao Yai Vs. Koh Yao Noi – Who Is It For?

If you want to go to a place that makes you feel like you’ve found the last Thai island paradise that hasn’t been completely overrun by tourists and changed by hotels, touristy shops and chains, you will love Koh Yao Yai. For the most part, the island feels like what I imagine most Thai islands must have been like twenty or thirty years ago. If you want to get a glimpse of the life of local fishermen and don’t want to do much but lying by the hotel pool, you’ll appreciate the tranquility of this island.koh yao yai viewpointIf you want a Thai island that isn’t overly touristy but has some amenities catering to the needs of tourists (air-conditioned coffee shops, Western food, boutique resorts), Koh Yao Noi  is for you. You still have the laid-back vibe like Koh Yao Yai,  but the island offers a better selection in terms of beaches, hotels and food, including some high-end eateries. Do not expect any shopping facilities here though – there are a couple of shops in the main village that sell clothes and souvenirs, but they can in no way be compared to the malls in Phuket.koh yao noi sunset

Practical information

Here is some travel information for both islands, including how to get there, available ATMs, WiFi, and where to stay.

How To Get To The Koh Yao Islands

There are ferries from Phuket as well as Krabi to Koh Yao Noi. Both are about the same distance from the islands, but in opposite directions (Phuket to the west, Krabi to the east).

The ferries leave Phuket from Bang Rong Pier. A taxi from the airport to the pier is THB500 (US$16).koh yao noi limestone islets

The ferries run about once an hour – there are more frequent fast boats that bring you to Koh Yao Yai in 30 minutes, and the slower, cheaper slow ferries, which take about an hour.

The ferries stop in Koh Yao Yai first and continue then to Koh Yao Noi (only eight minutes away).

From and to Krabi, the ferries stop at the Tha Krao Pier, and cost THB200. Ferries run nearly every hour during daylight hours.


It seemed that pretty much every hotel and every coffee shop on both islands had free WiFi.

ATMs on Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai

I couldn’t find any updated information on the ATM situation prior to my trip – but it turns out that both islands have ATMs. Koh Yao Noi had several ATMs around the island, on Koh Yao Yai it was a little bit more difficult – two out of the three available ATMs were out of order when I visited. Luckily, the third one worked!

Note that there are no actual banks on the islands though, which means you won’t be able to exchange money.
thailand koh yao yai swing

Where To Stay On Koh Yao Yai



koh yao noi bungalowSplurge:

Where To Stay On Koh Yao Noi


thailand koh yao noi sunsetValue:



Koh Yao Noi

Have you been to the Koh Yao Islands? Which one did you like better?

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Life’s a Beach in Koh Tao

koh tao sunset

Over the past few years, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to take a vacation. You might be thinking ‘Aren’t you always on vacation?’, but the truth is, that no matter where in the world I am, I always find myself working. Writing articles, answering emails, working on freelance projects, pitching ideas, being active on social media, dealing with the technical side of running an online business, and so on. I am always connected, always checking my emails, and a true vacation is rare.

So when I welcomed my first visitor to Thailand and her visit was 100% vacation time for her, I saw this as the perfect opportunity for me to get some R&R, too, instead of working on my laptop until I fall asleep with my head on the keyboard (happens more often than I’d like to admit). The plan was to take some time off together, to splurge on tasty food, take time to relax and to explore together, lay on the beach and enjoy sunset beers.koh tao sairee beach

Why visit Koh Tao?

And Koh Tao turned out to be the perfect place to do exactly that. I’d long wanted to visit Koh Tao, the smallest of the three most popular islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It is less touristy than the other two (Koh Samui and Koh Phangan), known for great snorkeling and diving spots, pristine beaches and a clientele of independent and younger travelers. While Samui largely attracts a resort clientele and Phangan is the backpackers haven with now not only a full moon party but also a half moon party, black moon party and I’m sure several other moons to celebrate, Koh Tao attracts mainly divers as it is known to be home to some of the best diving sites in South East Asia.koh tao boatWhile I still don’t feel the slightest urge to try diving, good diving usually means good snorkeling, which is what I wanted to do. Other than that, I had no plans whatsoever. I was going to experience the island just like everyone else who gets off one of the four ferries that arrive in Koh Tao every day.
koh tao sunset palm treeAnd I couldn’t have chosen a better place for an island getaway. My days in Koh Tao are a blur of beaches, snorkeling, sunsets, good meals and, yes, occasionally typing away on my laptop in offices like this one:koh tao beach viewMy friend Alex had recommended we’d stay in Sairee Beach, the longest stretch of sand beach on Koh Tao (1.2 miles /1.7km) long, because there, you don’t need transportation to get around, unless you want to see other beaches on the island. For that, there are taxi boats conveniently waiting in the bay for you, and you have plenty of restaurants and bars lining the beach to pick a different one each day. It’s the perfect spot if you want to be right on a beach and have something going on all the time. The only other beach that is similarly busy, but smaller, is Freedom Beach in the south of the island.
koh tao beachIf you prefer a quieter place and don’t mind renting a scooter to get around, there are smaller beaches like Hin Wong Bay and June Juea Bay and plenty of hotels and bungalow resorts scattered across the island, most of them perched on the side of the steep hills that form Koh Tao.
serendipity bar koh taoAs I’ve already mentioned, most people come here to dive and to take dive master courses, and there are around 40 diving schools on the island now. I saw several packages for dive courses including accommodation for around 8,000 baht (around US$224) which is a great deal – and another reason why Koh Tao attracts so many divers, in addition to its many dive sites.
koh tao fishFor people like me who prefer to stay above water, there are plenty of snorkeling tours on offer – they usually last all day, circumnavigate the island and include 4 or 5 stops, one of which is the famous Koh Nangyuan, the sight that adorns most of Koh Tao’s postcards and is probably the most photographed spot on the island.
koh tao islandOn my snorkeling tour, we stopped at Shark Bay where I didn’t see any sharks but a sea turtle (which would’ve compensated for not seeing a shark had I not just snorkeled with turtles in Apo Island, hence I was a bit disappointed), followed by a stop in another bay in the southwest, Mango Bay in the north and finally Koh Nangyuan.
koh tao fishI knew that this tiny islet which is home to only one resort would be touristy, but seeing hundred of tourists lining the pier and the small stretch of beach in between the two rocks was still a shock, especially because Koh Tao just didn’t seem all that busy.
koh tao islandNonetheless, Koh Nangyan is a spectacular sight, and I am glad that I braved the heat and scrambled up the million steps and the rocks to the viewpoint overlooking it all before snorkeling in the crystal clear waters.
dani underwaterMy favorite beach for snorkeling turned out to be something completely different though, Tanote Beach, a little bay in the southwest of the island, which we stumbled upon when we explored the island with an ATV. Within the first five minutes of being in the water I had already seen more fish than on most of the stops during the snorkeling tour (okay, I might exaggerate slightly here). But it was glorious to snorkel on a fairly empty beach without any boats in the bay and Asian tour groups following their guides in the water on long leashes. There are a couple of beach bars like Poseidon or Mountain Reef where you get drinks and food and also rent snorkeling equipment, swing in a hammock or get a Thai message.
sunset chang thailandBe warned though, the drive down the steep hills to get here was not easy on the ATV, so I can only assume that tackling this road on a scooter is even more nerve-wracking, especially on the way up (I am talking about 90 degree inclines).
koh tao viewRenting a scooter or an ATV is something I’d definitely recommend to see Koh Tao – if you start early, you can even see the entire island in one day, beach stops and various viewpoints included.
dani atv koh taoOur favorite stops of the day were the ‘I love Koh Tao’ viewpoint (I am not sure if it is known by another name) and the Dusat Buncha beach resort viewpoint right across from Koh Nangyan. If you have snorkeling gear, make sure to bring it, as there is a small but fantastic snorkeling area to which non-resort guests have access. (If you don’t have your own gear, you can rent it there for 100THB).
koh tao daniIf you don’t want to rent a scooter, you can take a cab to most beaches, and taxi boats to the ones with limited road access. One day, we took a boat to Sai Nuan Beach where we snorkeled until the sun went down, followed by our daily ritual of sunset drinks, that night at Banana Rock Bar, one of the most scenic bars on the island, set on stilts above the water with perfect sunset vistas.sunset loversThe thing that surprised me the most was just how many restaurant there were on the island, especially in Sairee – and almost of them serving finger licking good food. From beach side restaurants that serve fresh fish straight from the BBQ every night to impressive Italian cuisine and fancy tapas dishes and authentic Indian food, there’s almost nothing you can’t get in Koh Tao.
Koh Tao FoodAs soon as the sun goes down, the fire dancers come out, entertaining the crowds in the beach bars with their jaw-dropping skills – I mean, just look at this:sairee beach fire dancerSeveral bars like the Sunset Bar, Next2, Fizz or The Rock have DJs playing and it never takes long until people start dancing on the beach.thailand fire dancersKoh Tao is the perfect place for an island getaway, no matter if you dive or not. Bring a book, swing in a hammock, laze at the beach and just enjoy this little bubble far off the craziness of Phuket or Phi Phi, and trust me – you’ll have a hard time leaving.
sairee beach

Practical information: How To Visit Koh Tao

The fastest way to get to Koh Tao from Bangkok is Nok Air’s plane and ferry ticket (starting at BHT1,800 / US$50 for a return ticket). There is no airport on Koh Tao, the closest one is on Koh Samui or in Chumphon. From both places you’ll have to take a ferry, and from the airport on the mainland it takes about 90 minutes to reach the pier. Note: Nok Air leaves from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, not from Suvarnabhumi.

The other option would be taking the bus from Bangkok to the ferry, or the train. If you’re taking the bus, there are also ferry and bus combo tickets, especially around Kao San Road.
Koh Tao Thailand

Diving on Koh Tao

You can sign up for a dive course before you get there or just check out the various schools and their packages when you arrive on the island. To get an idea of just how many dive schools there are on Koh Tao, check out this comprehensive list on Wikitravel.

Snorkeling on Koh Tao

The cheapest snorkeling day trip I found was at AC resort in Sairee: 600 Baht per person. Most other places charge 750. All trips include water, coffee, tea, fruit and lunch.
Koh Tao snorkeling fish turtle

Where to eat on Koh Tao

If you love Thai food, you will have a hard time finding a place that serves bad food! Even the small cheapie road side stands make good Thai dishes, but most restaurants don’t charge more than 100 baht for a Thai meal. Fresh fish from the BBQ ranges from 150 to 450 baht.

Fancier restaurants with western dishes usually charge 150 – 300 baht per dish. Barracuda was a nice splurge with good non-Thai vegetarian options, and Zest was my favorite spot for breakfasts but they also make excellent salads and sandwiches.

And then there are of course all the banana roti vendors – which might have become a daily ritual during my stay on the island. To see what I mean, take a look at my Koh Tao video:

Serendipity is a great spot to watch the sunset with drinks and food (set high on a hilltop, with views over Sairee Beach), as is the Dusit Buncha restaurant (facing Koh Nangyuan). There are several other viewpoint restaurants on the road to Mae Haad.

I also liked the vibe at the InTouch restaurant at the southern end of Sairee Beach, but most of the bars along the beach are good.. Pick one and enjoy the views 🙂koh tao sunset


visit koh tao

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Please don’t go to… Koh Poda, Thailand

koh Poda boat

Do you remember when I asked you not to go to Todos Santos, Guatemala? Or Samara in Costa Rica? Valladolid in Mexico? It has been a while since I found a place that I wanted to keep all to myself, but when I stumbled across Koh Poda, it took me only a few steps along the white soft sand to realize I had found another little gem that I didn’t want to share with anyone. But you guys belong to my inner circle, so how could I not share this with you:koh poda beachAnd you’ll keep this little secret to yourselves, right?

So how did I find this tiny paradise? Krabi is the one coastal region in Thailand that everybody is raving about. I’d been to Krabi before, but it was shortly after getting scammed in Bangkok, and my mindset was just not right at the time, I was prepared to dislike everything about Thailand, and being ripped off right upon arriving in Krabi didn’t help. Beyond Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, I didn’t see much of the area back then – and admittedly, I didn’t love any of the islands I visited. On the contrary: I found Koh Phi Phi smelly and crowded, Phuket seedy and dirty, and our trip to the famous Maya Bay extremely disappointing. I had always seen stunning photos of the imposing limestone cliffs around the beaches of Railay and Tonsai and heard good things about Ao Nang. I owed Krabi a second chance and this year, I made it part of my Thailand itinerary to return to the Andaman Sea. koh poda longtail boatsBut when me and my travel buddy arrived in Ao Nang, neither one of us was very impressed. The beach looked nice but smelled of sewage, and walking by a canal that I am sure holds all of Ao Nang’s wastewater caused me nausea every time we passed it. Right next to it, there was even some kind of landfill where garbage was left to rot in the sun. On the other side of the canal, there were several restaurants – we couldn’t even bare the thought of eating in any of them, so close to the horrendous smell.

ao nang garbage
The not-so-pretty side of Ao Nang

So the next day, we hopped straight onto a long tail boat to Railay, excited to finally hit a dream beach. And again, while it looked pretty nice, it didn’t wow us. We didn’t even feel like going into the water because the bay was filled with long tail boats that were blowing their fumes into the air and water, and it was so stony that walking into the water required zigzagging around rocks and pebbles.railay beach thailandWe decided to go for lunch and a drink instead, but the prices at the beachfront restaurants (which I believe all belong to resorts) were so outrageously steep, that this wasn’t much fun either. I was aware that Railay would be more expensive because it is only accessible by boat, but if a simple Pad Thai is more expensive than in New York City, something is off. In general, prices for accommodation, food and drinks were considerably higher than in Koh Tao for example – often twice as much. I don’t mind paying more if the quality is better but not a single dish I had in eight days around Ao Nang and Railay was memorable.   andaman sea islands near railayBefore giving up on Krabi, we decided to email a tour company that advertised private island tours, and whose contact form was titled ‘Tell us what your dream is‘. The dream was, we wrote, to spend a day on an island with no tourist crowds, no tour groups, simply a small secluded beach. The email that came back was disheartening: such a thing didn’t exist in this part of Thailand, they wrote. Were there really no secluded dream beaches anymore?

ao nang sunset thailand
The pretty side of Ao Nang

Our last try would be a boat trip out to the islands we could see scattered across the Andaman Sea on the horizon and for which day trips were offered in the small travel agencies and along the beaches of Ao Nang. After a quick Google search about the various islands, we opted for a combined snorkeling trip of Chicken Island and Poda Island, just for the two of us.

chicken island
Any guesses why this is called Chicken Island? 🙂

And finally, when I least expected it, there it was. The Thai island paradise I had dreamed of. Crystal clear water and wide, white deserted sand beaches.koh poda beach coconut

To be honest, I didn’t think this would happen when we first approached Koh Poda and around 20 long tail boats and speed boats lined the shores of the tiny island. Hordes of tourists were swimming in the shallow water around the boats, taking selfies, the beach filled with beach towels in bright colors.koh poda tourists

We walked down the beach, away from the boats and the crowds, and the unthinkable happened: suddenly, we weren’t surrounded by people anymore. No more boats. Just crystal clear turquoise water, an empty beach, and the occasional sun seeker hidden between trees or tree trunks. It felt glorious.koh poda beach thailandI couldn’t believe that the island didn’t have hotels or resorts on it, because the grassy space behind the beach would be perfect for it, and you could get here easily in twenty minutes from Ao Nang.

koh poda palm trees
The perfect place for some beach side bungalows. However, I hope the island will remain uninhabited.

Other than a tiny hut selling cold drinks and snacks near the boat landing, there was no restaurant. And the further you walked away from the boats, the more the island felt like a completely deserted Robinson Crusoe island. koh poda shell

I wished we could have spent the night but we were not prepared and didn’t bring any food or even a change of clothes. I am not sure if camping is officially allowed there, but when we followed the path through the woods, we saw several extinguished campfires and other signs of overnight camping.koh poda longtail boats

Koh Poda: Paradise found in Thailand

I was so thrilled to have finally found the paradise island I’d been looking for all over Thailand, that I didn’t want the day to end.D & J in Koh PodaI think the photos show why I don’t want to share the island with anyone, but there are some other reasons why I’d like to keep Koh Poda to myself: While I thought Koh Poda was stunningly beautiful, I found the amount of garbage on the tiny island disturbing, especially considering that it is such a popular day trip destination (most boats seem to anchor for 30 minutes to an hour and then move on to the next place, as part of an island hopping trip). And I don’t want this little paradise to turn into another Ao Nang.koh poda boat thailandWhen people spend the night in such a paradise, why can’t they take their garbage home with them? Why would they not want the island to stay in a gorgeous state so that other people can enjoy it too? I simply cannot understand how tourists can just pile up garbage in such a pristine place and leave, but the overnight campers seemed to think differently.

koh poda trash
Even paradise comes with a downside..

Also: Koh Poda is a designated National Park, so why does nobody clear the garbage on the island? Wouldn’t the people who are in charge here want it to stay as jaw-dropping as it is, for the hundreds of people that come and visit it every day? We were charged an admission fee of THB200 (about US$5.88) each when we came on a private boat and THB50 (US$1.47) when we came back on a shared long tail boat the next day, so one would think enough money is collected every day to be able to employ someone who cleans the entire beach, and not just the tiny part where the boats arrive and the majority of people stay during their visit (I assume that this part is cleaned every day, but I don’t know for sure).

UPDATE 2019: Apparently, the entrance fee to visit Koh Poda is now 400 baht (US$13.25)!

visit koh poda thailandIn addition to the garbage, the damages of the 2004 Tsunami are still visible everywhere. There’s not a single palm tree left on the beach, dozens of massive tree trunks line the beach, making it even impossible to walk the entire length of the beach during high tide (there is a forest path though, and you can climb over most of the tree trunks). It gave me shivers to see how much damage the tsunami caused, still so prevalent on this tiny rock, more than a decade after it happened. I found myself wondering about the lack of clean-up here too, not sure why the tour operators wouldn’t get rid of these nuisances along the otherwise picture-perfect beach.koh poda tree trunks and beachDespite the garbage and the tsunami damage, Koh Poda was such a dream destination for us that we decided to return the next day. One day was just not enough.
koh poda daniAnd so the next day, we hopped onto another long-tail boat and set off again to spend another day in paradise. koh poda water thailand

If you visit Koh Poda..

I don’t know what will happen to Koh Poda – seeing how developed the Krabi area is, I would be surprised if it stayed resort or hotel-free forever. And that’s why I ask you: Please don’t go to Koh Poda. (But if you do visit Koh Poda, don’t forget to take your garbage back with you.)Koh Poda Island FunHave you found a dream beach in Thailand? If so, feel free to share it with me in the comments below…

Interested in more Thai island bliss? Read my article on Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi!


Koh Poda

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Paws, whiskers and cappuccinos: Scenes from Bangkok’s Cat Cafe

bangkok cat cafe2

Confession: I am a crazy cat lady. Even though I’ve grown to love dogs over the past few years and am now at the point where can’t see myself not having a dog once I put my backpack down and settle somewhere, I still adore cats. No matter how bitchy and grumpy and diva-ish they are, I love their distinctive cat personalities and they make me happy.bangkok cat cafe dani crazy cat ladyAnyone who has ever traveled with me will confirm that I can’t walk by a cat without petting it (I go through a lot of hand sanitizer 😉 ) and I don’t even want to know how many out of the over 100,000 photos I’ve taken in the past five years of travel feature cats. Places like Malaysia, Turkey, Italy or Buenos Aires, where there are a lot of cats around, make me happy. All I wanted for my birthday in Argentina a few years back was spending time in the Botanical Gardens in Buenos Aires, which is home to dozens of stray cats.bangkok cat cafeAnd for years I have been wanting to visit a cat café. These cafes, in which you basically hang out with a bunch of cats while having coffee, originated in Taiwan where the first cat café opened in 1998, and has since grown across Asia – especially in Japan, where there are more than 150 cat cafes, and South Korea, since in both countries most landlords don’t allow pets in their buildings. So if you want to cuddle with a cat, a cat café is the easiest way to get your cat fix.bangkok cat cafeJust before I arrived in Bangkok, I stumbled upon a blog post that mentioned a cat café in Bangkok – and the timing couldn’t have been better. I was in dire need of some cat love at the time, and so I headed straight to the neighborhood where the cat café was located. After a disappointing experience at a ‘cat café’ in Berlin last year (there were only two cats that were hiding the whole time, and the coffee maker didn’t work. So much for cats & coffee!) I tried to keep my expectations low, but I didn’t have anything to worry about.bangkok cat cafepurr cat cafeThe Purr Cat Café is exactly what you picture when you think ‘Cat Café’: a cozy place filled with gorgeous cats, some more interested in guests than others, but all fun to watch.

bangkok purr cat cafepurr cat cafeUpon arriving I had to remove my shoes and put on slippers that are provided and wash my hands in the reception area before I was allowed to enter the café. I didn’t know what caught my attention more – the delicious-looking cat-themed cakes or all the fluffy Main Coon cats. I was in cat heaven.bangkok cat cafebangkok purr cat cafeI chose one of the low tables and sat down on the carpet, and took in the cat action around me. The café comes with rules – guests are not allowed to pick cats up for example, or wake them up when they’re sleeping – but there are enough cats that are willing to share your coffee with you (just kidding, feeding them is not allowed) and to entertain you.bangkok cat cafeAnd that’s exactly what I did: I sat, watched, played, cuddled, photographed.. and by the time I left the cafe, my bad mood was completely gone. But how could these beautiful creatures not cheer one up, right?bangkok cat cafeWhat surprised me was that the clientele of the café was not at all female-dominated – there were several men who were just as much into the cats as the girls were.bangkok cat cafeFor true cat lovers there is a small shop next to the cafe where you can buy cat-themed gifts and souvenirs – but luckily my cat craziness hasn’t reached that stage yet. I know, however, that I’ll be back at Purr Cat Cafe Club the next time I am in Bangkok – and that I will also visit the cats at Caturday Cafe, Bangkok’s other cat cafe.bangkok cat cafebangkok cat cafe beautiesbangkok cat cafe

Practical Information

Address: 63 Soi Sukhumvit 53, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok (a 10 minute walk from Thong Lo BTS Station)

Cost: Admission is free, drinks and food are a little pricier than in other cafes (starting at around THB100) but it is money well spent.

If you are not planning a trip to Bangkok any time soon but would still like to get your cat fix, fear not: you can find Purr Cat Café Club on Facebook and Instagram.purr cat cafeCats at Purr Cat Cafe Bangkokbangkok cat cafeHave you visited a cat or dog cafe? Would you include one in your travel itinerary, or does cat hair with a slice of cake not sound very appealing to you?

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Polaroid Of The Week: Bangkok’s Concrete Jungle

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week Thailand Bangkok Skyline

I noticed that despite having spent several weeks in Bangkok over the past few months (when I add up the days of my various stays, including the involuntarily longer one), it has never been featured as a Polaroid Of The Week! I’ve also noticed the city’s slogan City Of Life for the first time on my last visit, and thought that while it wasn’t very creative, it’s definitely true… Bangkok just feels incredibly alive and buzzing with life at any time of day. And since it’s my last stop in Thailand before my return to Hong Kong, I figured I should give Bangkok a shout-out – I’ve been having a great time every time I visited this year (excluded are visits to the German Embassy) and have grown to like the city much more than I used to.

It’s still not my favorite city in the world, but every time I came here, I enjoyed creature comforts like watching a movie in one of the many brand new cinemas, having excellent coffee (something I don’t take for granted anymore, after being served instant coffee even in 4* hotels!), paying too much money to satisfy cravings for my favorite Western food (or Garrett’s Popcorn!), joining the hipster crowd for a Sunday afternoon market stroll at Chatuchak Market or going for a morning run (admittedly though more often in an air-conditioned hotel gym instead the 100°F / 38°C outdoor temperatures). I also started a quest to find the city’s rooftop bar with the best views and the best boutique hotel for a splurge – and I’ll be writing about all these things shortly.

Apologies for the silence on the blog this week; I’ll be back with articles from three different countries next week!

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Polaroid of the week: Koh Poda, my island paradise in Thailand


polaroid of the week thailand koh podaI finally returned to the Krabi area, a region of Thailand famous for the limestone cliffs which dramatically raise behind most of the beaches along the coast of the Andaman Sea.

I visited Krabi in 2012, when I found the islands a little too touristy (with the exception of Koh Lanta). This time around, I wanted to see some of the beaches that people rave about that I never made it to, like Tonsai and Railay. While I wasn’t too impressed with these two beaches to be honest, I loved the dreamy island of Koh Poda, where a long stretch of powdery sand won me over and I couldn’t get enough of the warm, shallow and crystal clear water. I could have spent an entire week on this tiny island, completely off the grid, and even though I read somewhere that there was one resort on the island, I never saw it. Other than a litte kiosk there was nothing on the island – just this glorious beach and some island hoppers.

I finally found a true beach paradise in Thailand – I couldn’t have asked for a better place to end my beach hopping tour around South East Asia! After months of island hopping in the Philippines, beach sunsets, lazy beach days in Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve got only a couple of more stops before I am leaving this part of the world… I have to admit that I am not ready at all, but if everything goes according to plan, I will be back later this year. Expect a full post on Koh Poda soon.

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Polaroid of the week: Sunset in Koh Chang, Thailand

Polaroid of the week

polaroid of the week thailand koh chang sunsetI had originally planned to travel straight from Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Bangkok, but decided on a whim to break up the trip and spend a few days in Koh Chang, a small island in the Gulf of Thailand just north of the border with Cambodia (there are actually two Koh Changs in Thailand, the other one located in the Andaman Sea, close to the border with Myanmar). Not only would I get to check out another Thai island, but I’d also squeeze in a few more beach days before returning to loud and congested Bangkok.

I didn’t have any expectations for Koh Chang, and to be honest, didn’t know all too much about the island, so I was curious to see how Koh Chang compared to the islands in the Andaman Sea and the other islands I’d visited in the Gulf (Koh Tao and Koh Phangan). And I didn’t regret my decision to make the detour to Koh Chang – on the contrary, it was love at first sight! From the moment I stepped off the ferry just in time to see the first of several breathtaking sunsets to the early morning I waved goodbye to Koh Chang as the car ferry moved further and further away from the shore, I was walking on sunshine (quite literally).

I didn’t get to see as much of the island as I would’ve liked, but the beaches I saw made me long for more – I will definitely be back. I stayed in Lonely Beach in the south west of Koh Chang, a beach whose lonely days are long gone, but nonetheless I enjoyed the chilled vibe there as it was never crowded or busy. Apparently, Lonely Beach is the party central of the island. However, I didn’t notice any parties while I was there – maybe my bungalow was too far away from it all. I didn’t come to Koh Chang to party anyway, but to soak up some sun and dig my toes into the sand, knowing that this would be one of the last few islands I’d visit on my Asia stint, as my time here is (already!) coming to an end this month.

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Life lately and upcoming travels: March 2015 Edition

dani kampot

In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, what’s new with, what’s next for me and the most popular posts of the last month.

Where I’ve been

This month didn’t go as planned – I wasn’t allowed to travel to Indonesia, spent more time in Thailand than I had originally planned, and unexpectedly found myself in Cambodia! Let’s start with the good, before we get to the bad and the ugly.

I started the month traveling with someone and am finishing the month traveling with someone – and was supposed to travel with another friend in between, but that didn’t happen. More on that whole fiasco in a bit. The best part of the month was playing tour guide and showing off some of my favorite places in Thailand. I love showing people how easy and inexpensive independent travel can be and this trip was no different. Almost everything was smooth sailing, except for a horrible case of food poisoning in Bangkok that knocked me out for more than one entire day.

March 2015 Travels
Clockwise, starting u.l.: Siem Reap & Shokha Beach, Cambodia, Koh Chang and Bangkok, Thailand

I started the month in Chiang Mai, moved on to Bangkok where I ended up being stuck for over a week, followed by a whirlwind tour of my favorite places in Cambodia (Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Kampot, Otres Beach), and returned to Bangkok via Koh Chang, an island that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. I stayed in Lonely Beach in Koh Chang (which turned out to be anything but lonely!) and loved my days on the island, making me wish I would’ve had more time there, but my friend was waiting to be picked up at the airport in Bangkok. I’ll be back to explore more of Koh Chang for sure. Returning to Cambodia was such a treat – I had been skeptical if I would still love it as much as I did the first time around, but I had nothing to worry about. My deep love for Cambodia was the same, and I might even have fallen more in love with the country during this visit, if that’s possible at all.March 2015 Cambodia and Thailand

What went well

Work & travel balance
Even though I traveled A LOT this month, I got a huge amount of work done. Whenever I was in transit, I used the time to write, no matter if I was on a bus, ferry, plane, or minivan.

Digital nomad offices March 2015
Some of the offices I had the pleasure to work in this month

Making time to relax
I’ve had the hardest time over the past few months allowing myself to relax. I kept going, going, going or working till late into the night – this month I actually managed to read book and allowed myself some beach time. It felt glorious.sunset reading koh chang

Revisiting Cambodia
As I already said – I loved being back in Cambodia, despite not having any plans to go there in the first place. I don’t think I could’ve chosen a better place to get over the debacle that kept me from going to Indonesia. And after spending a couple of weeks in Cambodia, I can only say that it still is one of my favorite countries in the world and I found myself walking around with a big smile on my face every single day there. I didn’t do much except for wandering the towns I stopped at, had good food, cycled through the countryside and visited the PHARE Circus in Siem Reap (pictured below), a wonderful non-profit organization that helps local artists to develop successful circus careers. I’ll be writing more about Phare shortly.cambodia 2015

What went wrong

Not visiting Indonesia
My biggest travel fail in years. And I was supposed to meet a good friend there to celebrate her birthday together (she’d flown all the way from Germany to spend her vacation with me) – I still feel horrible for standing her up.

Why did I not go?

The passport fiasco
I was at the AirAsia check-in desk at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, ready to check in for my flight to Denpasar, Bali. I didn’t even realize at first that the clerk had cancelled my ticket after saying ‘Indonesia might not let you in. Passport damaged’. But when he handed me a receipt which stated my flight details and had ‘cancelled’ handwritten in large letters on it, it began to dawn on me that he was for real. ‘No!’, I yelled at him, ‘I have to get on this plane! Someone’s waiting for me in Indonesia!’ All I got from him was a stern look and the request to move out of the way so that the next customer could proceed. Long story short- after a frustrating talk with the supervisor, Thai immigration inspecting the state of my passport and some shed tears, I was on my way to the German embassy to have my passport replaced, which means in my case a temporary passport that makes it incredibly difficult to travel around, since it is not biometric. I have to apply for a visa for pretty much any place I’d like to travel to. Even if my friend would have been in Bali longer I wouldn’t have made it there in time to see her, and so my Indonesia plans are put on hold for now.

Let’s talk about my passport for a minute: yes, it is probably more used than after passports, after nearly five years of traveling full-time with me, but I also want to point out that I’d taken 13 flights this year already, including in Europe, and was never told that my passport might be an issue to enter a country. As soon as I get my new passport though I will buy a passport holder, that’s for sure. (You’d do the same after being yelled at by a German government official for being careless with an official travel document, trust me.)

Please note that the corners were cut off by the embassy to mark it invalid, that wasn’t me. If you still think that my old passport was in a horrible state, feel free to yell at me in the comments.

Food poisoning
This was the third time on my travels that I didn’t get food poisoning from a dodgy street food cart but from a fancy establishment! This time it happened at the Grand Central VIP movie theater, where 700 baht buy you not only a movie ticket for a smaller, more intimate movie theater with reclining seats, blankets and waiting service throughout the movie (unlimited refills on popcorn and soft drinks), but also access to a fancy lounge with a buffet 1 hour before the movie starts. In theory, the perfect way to spoil yourself after touring Thailand and before a day of exploring Ayutthaya – in reality though, for me the day ended over the toilet, throwing up all the food I had at the buffet, and with a seriously upset stomach. Cycling around the ruins of Ayutthaya the next day? Unthinkable.

kampot food
Pictured is not the food that caused me to nearly die, but a delicious vegetarian Cambodian amok. Enjoyed without any uncomfortable side effects.

Power-less in Cambodia
Picture this: you are in a sweltering heat of 100F /38C, and the only reason you survive is thanks to the air conditioned cafes around town. The power goes out. No air conditioning, no fans, nothing. That’s what happened to me in Siem Reap, just as I was about to eat dinner. It turned out to be the sweatiest meal of my life – my clothes were soaking wet by the time I finished my meal. Luckily I found a restaurant with a generator so that they could run their fans but once they closed, I had to return to my hotel which was still without power. So were my laptop, iPod and iPhone. The room was like a sauna. The entire street was pitch black. Just as I was about to die (no, I am not being overly dramatic here at all), the power came back on. ‘Welcome to the third world’, read the text my friend Carla sent me in reply to me outlining the misery I had gone through the previous night.

siem reap market
I took this photo on said day in Siem Reap’s market. Meat eaters: can you explain to me how fresh meat doesn’t go bad in over 100F/38C temperatures without being cooled?

Drama in Bangkok
After an embarrassing breakdown in Bangkok at the beginning of the month (we’re talking about a full-on drama scene in front of hotel staff, other guests and my temporary globetrottergirl) because of another WiFi incident and a consequently nearly missed deadline for a freelance article I was ready to give up this nomadic life. I couldn’t understand how I ended up in a hotel where the WiFi didn’t work again (the same happened last month!) – in no less than three different rooms, and in Bangkok of all places. Clearly, some higher power was telling me that this whole digital nomad life wasn’t for me?

Bangkok 2015
Other than the WiFi incident, my stay in Bangkok was rather pleasant and involved local markets, cats and penises. No worries – I’ll tell you more about it soon.

Lessons learned

From the aforementioned incident I can only say: my own fault for waiting until the very last minute to submit my article. Don’t wait until the very end to deliver on work commitments. You might think I would have learned that by now, but clearly, I always need some sort of drama in my life.

From the passport fiasco: take better care of my passport, obviously. While I might not care about what condition it is in, the immigration officials in this world do.

Don’t travel on a tourist shuttle
I don’t even know why I booked a direct transfer from Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Koh Chang, Thailand. I’ve not used a single tourist shuttle since I got to Asia, always traveling independently from place to place, using public transportation. I ended up taking twice as long and paid nearly double of what it would have cost me to organize my own transportation, and ended up still changing from a bus at the border into a minivan into a shared pickup truck onto a ferry into a taxi – exactly what I would’ve done independently, but as I said, for half the money and without hour-long waits for the vans to fill up.

koh chang monkeys
Monkeys on Koh Chang. I am fairly sure they didn’t arrive by tourist shuttle.

Lessons taught

I thought I should include this category this month because traveling with other people has had me teach them a few lessons actually, including:

  • How not to get ripped off by Bangkok cab drivers
  • How to find the best deals for hotels
  • How to find out if a hotel is really as decent as it looks in the pictures
  • How to find out what’s the right fare for tuktuks, cabs and other transportation that is not clearly stated on official fare signs
  • How to find cheap flights around south east Asia

If you’d like to know more about any of these things, leave a comment and I will turn it into a full post.

bangkok royal palace
The Royal Palace in Bangkok – visited without being scammed by tuktuk drivers or taxi drivers.

What’s next for me

Another month, another visitor! My friend was dying to spend her birthday on a beach, so why not come and see me in Thailand, right? ☺️

I am spending another ten days in Thailand before my Asia stint comes to full circle in Hong Kong mid-April. I am getting ready for my return to the U.S. which I’ve already hinted on in this article last month, but since I’m still in the planning stages of my exact whereabouts for the first few weeks (guess what – it’s NOT New York!), I’ll wait till next month to share the details with you. Now I only have to keep my fingers crossed for my new passport to be ready in time for me to catch my flight – I have about ten days in Germany at the end of April to apply for a new passport, have the details on my plane ticket changed (it was issued to my old passport number) and get a new ESTA visa waiver. Wish me luck that I’ll be sending my next update as I am on my way to the U.S.!

ao nang boats
Ao Nang, Thailand, where I am writing this. I still have a few more days in this beautiful part of the country.


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Polaroid of the week: Temple Hopping in Chiang Mai, Thailand


polaroid of the week thailand chiang mai monthian templeWhen I left Chiang Mai earlier this week, all I could think was: This visit was far too short! And short it sure was, just a whirlwind tour around the city in which I spent most of my time during my last Thailand stint, and for which I had big plans – they pretty much all involved food, eating my way through all my favorite eateries and check out new ones. But instead, we spent most of our time temple hopping around the city (did you know that there are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai? And no two are alike!), shopping for gifts and souvenirs in the weekend markets, cycling around the city, watching lady boy cabarets, and we spent a whole day with the elephants at the Elephant Nature Park, which has been a highlight of my time in Thailand so far.

The temple pictured, Wat Monthiang, is located on the northern end the square that marks Chiang Mai’s old town, bordered by a 6.5kilometer long moat. While it is still in the Old Town, it somehow is not part of the tourist circuit, even though it has a giant golden Buddha statue right next to the temple, and the temple itself has an elaborate burgundy and golden color scheme which makes it one of the most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai, at least in my opinion. If you check it out when you are in Chiang Mai, make sure to also visit Wat Lok Moli, just across the moat from Wat Monthiang, which is one of the older temples in the city and still has a large ancient brick chedi (stupa) behind the temple, dating back to the 14th century.

Other than being too short (and too hot, considering it was 38C / 100F every single day!), our time in Chiang Mai was perfect – great food, amazing coffee (much needed after mediocre island coffee shops!), heartwarming encounters with the elephants, a shopping spree and rediscovering what makes this northern Thai city so special.

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