Dining out at the beach in Koh Samui

One of the great things about Thailand is the abundance of wonderful food. Whether you’re looking for western fare or local dishes there are so many inexpensive options! Many are just outside your door. Koh Samui had less of the street stalls but had an abundance of fairly inexpensive restaurants to make up for it.

My favorite restaurant while we stayed in Koh Samui was a BBQ place called Eldorado that was located two blocks from our hotel. It was very inexpensive by Western standards and I thought that the food was top notch. Very authentic. I remember liking their pork chops especially, but everything that I got there was good. Also, once a week they have an all you can eat BBQ with ribs, steak, chicken etc. Being able to try all the BBQ on the menu was a great experience, and most of it was delicious! There was even a tasty salad that Eric and I went back for second helpings twice!

Eric’s favorite place was a thin crust pizza place called Pizza Del Sol. It was a short scooter ride up the coast and had this amazingly crispy crust. There were quite a variety of different toppings and they were never too busy. There’s something quite different about the pizzas that we ate in Thailand. I did wonder if perhaps they’re a little more authentic to the original Italian style than what we find in the States, and if that’s what makes them so good.

When we wanted a quick dinner with a variety of options we went to the Lamai Central Plaza. This is a plaza in the middle of town that features a selection of food stalls, small restaurants and open air seating. I remember getting a decent Pad Thai here, and it’s great when you and your friend want to have different dishes. There are bars with dancer women here however, so it might be something to skip if that’s not something that sits well with you.

When we were feeling really lazy there was Live India, an Indian restaurant that would deliver to our hotel! Since it was just a short walk away they didn’t even charge us. I always order the chicken tikka marsala. The sauce was really rich and the chicken was nice and tender. If you eat in the restaurant that is a nice deal that includes a beer, rice, and naan which we took advantage of several times.

We didn’t celebrate Christmas while we were in Lamai, but we did go to the Swing Bar for New Years Eve. Every hour or so leading up to NYE they had fire dancing show! It was actually on a platform a few feet out in the surf. The waves crashing at the dancer’s feet and the streaks of fire in the dark were really cool. The beach was packed with all sorts of dancing and partying people, but we managed to find a quieter section and sit on the sand for a bit. I got an outrageously priced gin and tonic to ring in the new year because that’s what you do! At midnight many people set off the fireworks they’d picked up downtown. Overall it was a nice way to end the year.

Of course we ate at quite a few other places but these are the ones that stand out the most for me. We did start eating at Western places more at this time, I think because we were both starting to get really homesick. And being in a touristy area probably had something to do with it too!

Next time I’ll talk about some of the other things that you can see or do in Lamai.

 

 

Koh Samui and the beginning of my island vacation

At this point in the trip Eric and I were really exhausted. I needed to recharge so I spent the next two weeks sleeping late, swimming in the pool, checking out new restaurants, walking along the beach and basically not doing anything touristy or strenuous. It was a relaxing beach holiday! We did go out for New Years but just to a local bar. This part of our trip was slower paced and I think it gave us a better look at what it’s like to live in Thailand like a local.

When you’re traveling for a long time I think it’s important to take breaks. You can get pretty homesick. Travel can be very stressful and you want to make sure that you’re treating yourself and the people around you with some courtesy and kindness.

The next few posts are going to feature less activities and more reviews on our hotel and local restaurants. I’ll start by talking about our hotel, some of the things I liked about it and the beach.

We lucked out on our accommodation. The whole town was sold out for Christmas and New Years Eve but we found a place a few blocks from the beach called the Holiday Park. I believe that it was newly opened and that was part of the reason that we were able to get a room. Funny enough we found it through contacting a property manager through airbnb. The place that I messaged him about was booked (allegedly), but he met us near the McDonald’s and showed us around. I think this was the first place he showed us and we just took it.

Now a little about our hotel. Our room was newly remodeled and was very spacious and modern. It had a few quirks, like the water being a weird color for a few days and the shower head being attached to the side of the bath, but was otherwise very comfortable. The bed was even decently soft!

Early on I bought us some cheap bowls and silverware. We often would have cereal (there was a fridge in the room where we could keep milk) or sometimes eat left overs. If there had been a microwave we would have been set but we had to rely on 7-11 to heat up things for us. There was a free breakfast of toast, jam, margarine, sometimes fresh fruit, and tea in the common area that I often took advantage of. And there are tons of restaurants within a five minutes walk around the place.

Our hotel had a nice pool with an elaborate fountain. I thought this was funny when we first arrived. The ocean was only 5-10 minutes away!  But with all of the high tide warnings it was nice to be able to swim everyday. Actually we didn’t know it at the time but the red flags in the water mean you should not swim. There were a few people that drowned when they got pulled out to sea only a few miles from the beach we stayed near. We found out halfway through our trip. Don’t make our mistake and try to investigate these sorts of things more.

The local beach was very nice. I particularly loved taking walks along the water. There were also a number of bars along the beach where you could relax and listen to the waves while enjoying a gin and tonic. Or even get a massage! Listening to the waves and feeling the gentle ocean breezes was so relaxing, I sincerely enjoyed it. I think Eric fell asleep during his!

Next time I will talk about some of our favorite restaurants.

Back in Thailand and traveling south through Khao Sok

It was nice to be back in Thailand! People are so friendly and laid back, there’s nowhere else in the world like it. It was only a week that we were in Cambodia but I really missed it.

I don’t actually remember much of the trip down south other than we were on a 2nd class train for a long time. Guess I was tired, lol.

We had absolutely no idea where we were going to stay the night but ran into another backpacker and ended up going with her to the Khao Sok Green Mountain View resort.

We definitely lucked out. These jungle bungalows were just what we needed after a long trip. They were actually in the jungle, very comfortable (though somewhat spartan), and had their own private bathrooms. My only disappointment was that we didn’t have any hot water which was actually an issue as it was chilly early in the morning! I would suggest showering the night before while it’s still warm.

Onsite there is a small restaurant run by the owner and his family. We got a chance to talk with him at dinner. He is a super nice guy! Full of fun stories about the area and different people he’d met. There were several guidebooks for things to do at the lake and we booked an excursion that included sleeping on the water in a floating cabin. Sometimes I look back and am amazed by all the exciting things I was doing during this time period!

After a good night’s sleep we left for our river trip. First we stopped in town to buy some supplies for the hikes included in the tour. The guide told us that we would need some type of water proof shoes (not sandals) and a headlamp to see in the cave. All the options were very expensive and I wasn’t able to find anything but a very ill fitting pair of croc knock offs. It was the only thing we found that even remotely fit me. Which is kind of strange as I thought there would be a lot more options in Thailand since my feet are a bit small. We met back at the sangthaew and left for the dock where we got into a large power boat.

It was actually an hour or two boat ride to the place we were staying, but quite scenic!

Sadly I didn’t get a picture of the place we stayed, but here are some cabins that look similar. There are a few options in the area and we stayed at the Ton Toey Raft House. While it was very picturesque and I enjoyed my time there we had several major issues that I’ll get into.

Our stay included two separate hikes through the local cave system and a late night wildlife viewing boat ride. I decided on the easier hike and the wild life viewing.

Even though I decided on the easier hike it was really a challenge. To be honest it was fairly dangerous. At one point we had to descend a 6-7 foot waterfall and our guide abandoned us! Luckily one of the other guests was very outdoorsy and was able to guide our group down.

When we exited the cave we found out that it had started to rain while we were inside. That was part of the reason the waterfall was so difficult to cross. This is the exact scenario that had killed several hikers in years past, a flash flood due to rain filled the cave and they were unable to escape. In fact the trail is only open part of the year after the end of the rainy season, and had only been open a few days before we arrived. Pretty scary. I’m glad that things turned out okay for us!

Other than that hairy part the hike was amazing. Both the portion through the jungle and in the caves. I wish that I’d gotten more pictures but because the cave was flooded in some places I left my phone behind. I really need to get water proof GoPro.

That night we went on a relaxing wildlife watching tour. I didn’t see much other than a little eye shine in the trees and a bird, but it was a fun excursion. Being on the water and listening to the sounds of the jungle was magical.

Sadly the next day poor Eric got a terrible case of food poisoning. It was made worse due to the fact that they have very poor toilet facilities (and no sinks to wash your hands or any soap) and did not supply enough water. You could use the shower heads in the bathrooms and bring some soap with you, which we did, but I’m sure many people didn’t bother. The last two days of the trip I ended up stealing water off the supply shelves and asking for extra at meal times. I felt like a water hoarder.

We were so remote I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone all day so I stayed at the cabin. Plus I was pretty tired from the day before. Actually a lot of people skipped the hike scheduled for that day and just went swimming or borrowed the single kayak that was available. One of the women staying there gave me some hydration salts to help with Eric’s illness. Backpackers really do look out for each other, it’s such a nice part of traveling.

Later we found out the hike we missed was through a bunch of leech filled pools. Everyone who went was covered from toe to knee in leeches! Pretty disgusting.

My advice, if you decide to go make sure that you bring extra water. Skip the cave hike near the rainy season, and skip the second hike if you can’t handle the leeches. The boat tours are fun though you might not see many animals. It is beautiful and you can just enjoy the scenery and have a good swim. I’m glad that I went I just wish that I had a little more information about what the hikes were like. And the sanitation really was an issue. There really should be a place for people to wash their hands after using the bathroom, especially the cook.

I wish that I could give this a better review. It was a really polarizing experience. Both great and terrible.

We spent the next day going from one form of transportation to another until we arrived in Koh Samui, one of the islands in the southeast. I will pick up there in my next post!

 

 

Tonlé Sap Lake and the stilt village

South of Siem Reap is one of the largest bodies of water in the region, Tonlé Sap Lake. Famous for it’s stilt and floating villages, we decided to take one of the shorter trips to see a stilt village.

Our first view of some of the stilt buildings. Because it is the dry season the water level is low and the houses are quite tall!

In town. Here people use boats like we use cars.

Here is another group enjoying a tour.

On the outskirts of the village we had the chance to take a small raft through the flooded trees.

While I had a nice time and took some great pictures I think that if we were to do it again we would take more care to book with a reputable company. Especially at the end of the day they were trying to aggressively sell us soda, souvenirs, and some meal on the lake deal. We were both fed up with it by the end of the day. Should have listened to the guidebook, it did warn us!

Next we’re back to Thailand and traveling south to the islands.

Riding Quads, the outskirts of Siem Reap and alligator farms

Now that we’ve seen Angkor Wat what else is there to do in Siem Reap?

There are actually quite a few options. During out trip we rented some Quads and had an off road adventure! We booked with Quad Aventure Cambodia and did the Half Day tour. We did not make it all the way to the floating villages, but we saw so many small villages and beautiful terrain I did not miss it.

We started the day by taking a tuk tuk to their main office where we picked out helmets and were given a short driving test. I was a bit nervous. This was my first time driving a quad. Luckily it was no big deal. They’re very easy to drive.

One of the first stops of the day was at what I think was an abandoned funerary. I remember tracking down exactly where this was at one point, but I just can’t find it now. Anyone recognize it?

Our trip was actually rather open ended. Because I hadn’t been on a Quad before our guide stuck to an easier route. We passed through a lot of villages, saw an alligator farm, almost saw one of the filming locations for a film directed by Angelina Jolie, and were given the option to shoot a machine gun!

It was nice to get out of the city and see how people actually live. Some of the towns only had a large dirt road through the middle of town. We saw quite a few ancient ruins, although our guide told us we should not linger in these places because we were on the border of the Angkor Archeological Park.

The Alligator Park was disappointing. Smelly and crowded. I don’t know what I was expecting but there were basically a bunch of bare concrete pits filled with Alligators and shallow pools of brackish water. Not exactly like watching Steve Irwin work. I would recommend skipping this in the future.

Either shortly before or during our time in Cambodia Angelina Jolie was on location filming First They Killed My Father, a story about woman growing up during Khmer Rouge regime. Our guide tried to take us too see some of the filming locations but we were stopped by a guard. That would have been really cool to see. Alas!

We were also given the option to shoot a machine gun. However the bullets were $2 which seemed pretty expensive. I was worried about the safety of it and decided to decline. Since coming back home we found out that you can rent a machine gun here for the same price! So if you’re from the states you can skip this, but if you’re from a country with stricter gun control laws you can ask to shoot a machine gun on your quad adventure!

That’s about all I can remember from the trip. I wish that I got more pictures driving through town but honestly I was completely focused on driving and taking in the sights.

Next time I will talk about the stilt villages at Tonlé Sap Lake.

Have you ever had an amazing experience during your travels, but not really captured it on film?  What was it?

Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Ta Prohm

My boyfriend is not much of an early riser, so unlike most people we did not wake up before dawn to see Angkor Wat in the light of the sunrise. We slept in and found a tuktuk driver while walking downtown, lol. It worked out great and we were able to see Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Ta Prohm, the Indiana Jones Temple! While these are the most popular temples they are also really cool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run across people talking about these or sharing pictures. I have no regrets.

Angkor Wat is actually just one of the temples that are in Siem Reap. There are tons and you can choose to see a bunch in one day in one grand loop. Most places start with Angkor Wat and go in a clockwise loop, but you can also go in the opposite direction in order to beat the crowds.

In order to see Angkor Wat you buy a ticket to enter the park area with all of the various temples. We decided on a one day pass at $20. You can also buy a pass for three days for $40 and a seven day pass for $60. This does not include temples that are located outside of the Angkor Archaeological Park so check out the page and do your research before you go. You will be asked for your passport and to take a picture for your ticket.

Actually we managed to get to the temple at lunch time and it was great timing. There’s a bit of a lull between the early morning crowds and the afternoon ones and while there were still a few other tourists there it wasn’t too crowded.

 

The first statues you see as you enter Angkor Wat. There really are people everywhere!

There are also a bunch of touts hanging around trying to sell you various items. This can be useful, for example I picked up a hat that probably saved me from some sun burn. Honestly they just can’t compete with everything around you.

Here were are crossing the moat.

This is the entrance to the inner part of Angkor Wat. Once inside you walk for a quite a bit before you come to the main structure. Unfortunately the sun was not cooperating with me and I didn’t get any good pictures of it.

In order to get to the top you have to walk up some steep narrow steps. I’ve read online that this is supposed to represent the difficultly of getting to heaven, which is what the highest point of the temple represents. Here is the view from the top.

Once we finished exploring the top we started to view the outer walls. This is one of the murals that I found interesting.

After Angkor Wat, we were invited by our guide to check out a hot air balloon view of the Angkor Archaeological Park. This was kind of disappointing as we did not know that it would be a quick up and down ride while tied to a tether! Oh well, it was still a nice view. I recommend you skip this one and move on to the next temple on your itinerary.

Next we went to check out the Bayon. This was actually one of my favorite places of the day. The smiling and sanguine faces make this place almost eerie, and the bas-reliefs are beautiful.

At this point we were pretty hungry and decided to stop and have an early dinner. Our guide drove us to a restaurant in the area. It was not very good and I think it was mostly recommended because of the incentive that the guides receive for bringing customers! If we were to do it again I we should have done more research on good places to stop for a meal.

After our disappointing dinner we went to our last stop of the day, Ta Prohm.

Ta Prohm was the place I was initially most excited about. It is famous for the huge trees that have grown through its ruins and is just like stepping into a movie set. Here are a few of the pictures that I took. It was a little difficult with take good pictures with the light and the crowds, but I just took a bunch anyway.

Funny story, even with our shortened itinerary we were exhausted from walking around all day. There are two entrances to Ta Phrohm, one on the east and one on the west and they look pretty similar. We were so turned around that we ended up walking straight through the complex and looking for our tuk tuk driver on the wrong side! It took us forever to figure out what was wrong as the entrances looked so similar.

In any case I think that it was the perfect trip for us and it was one of the highlights of my trip to Southeast Asia. I’m a big Anthropology nerd and this was so cool! Honestly I see so many references to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and the Bayon online and I don’t feel like I missed out on much by not seeing the other temples. If you aren’t that much of a walker or just want to have a more relaxing trip don’t feel like you need to see everything. Pick the places that you’re interested in and go see those.

Some tips for going to the temples are to bring a hat or buy sunscreen, there is a lot of walking in the sun. You can also buy a hat from one of the many vendors but know that the prices they quote are 3-4 times that of what the item is worth. Wear comfortable shoes. These are massive sites and you are going to do a lot of walking. As for drinks and snacks there are actually tons of shops along the way so you don’t really need to bring those.

That’s all I can think of for now. I hope that one day you will get a chance to go see Angkor Wat for yourself! Next time I am going to talk about riding Quads around the outskirts of Siem Reap.

Siem Reap, the city behind Angkor Wat

I’d actually never heard of Siem Reap before researching our trip to Angkor Wat and I think that in many ways the city gets lost in the tourism the attraction brings. Angkor Wat is one of a group of ancient ruins located in the Angkor Archeological Park. The whole area is included in the ticket price and there are few if any hotels located inside. If you’re going to Angkor Wat you will be staying in Siem Reap.

Siem Reap has exploded with tourism in the last few years and you cannot cross a street without encountering a tuktuk driver shouting offers to bring you on a temple tour. If you’re coming from Thailand like we did the aggressiveness of these encounters can be somewhat jarring. Try to remember that the local people don’t have much money and getting your business can make a huge difference to them. If you’re not interested just smile and move on.

Because the hotels and restaurants are aimed at tourists rather than the local population you will find they are more expensive than other places in Southeast Asia. I think that I probably spent in a week what would have taken 3-4 weeks in Thailand. That said we did cram a lot of activities into our five day visit and we all had a lot of fun.

The one thing that is very inexpensive here is the beer. It is only $.50 in most places, and often comes free if you order a meal. If you’re looking to try bar hoping or just kick back with a cold one when it gets hot this is the place to do it.

Now that I’ve talked a little about the town I will go into some details about our trip. Tips, where we stayed, where we ate and other services available in Siem Reap.

Like I mentioned in my last post for the most part they use US dollars for currency in Cambodia. You will want to use bills no larger than $20 and to make sure they are in good shape. Overly dirty, wrinkled or ripped bills may be refused. You may also receive some Cambodian currency as small change. Try to use all of this up before you leave as it’s too small to exchange.

My other tip is that you get a sim card and a week long tourist plan for your cell phone. Being connected to our friends back home and being able to look things up was invaluable and made me feel a lot more secure. It is conveniently located at the airport and doesn’t take more than a few minutes to set up.

We stayed at the HI Siem Reap hostel in a private room with bath and air conditioning. This was maybe two blocks away from the Art Market and a short walk to downtown. It was clean, comfortable, and because they are owned by the same company as the HI Siem Reap Deluxe we were able to use the roof top swimming pool at that location.

If you are planning to swim at the pool you will probably want bring your swimsuit with you or make sure to wear a cover up. While it is not far to walk I did feel uncomfortable walking for so long in a wet swimsuit and towel. There is a public bathroom at the pool that you can use to change.

The one things that I have to mention about our stay is a problem I had  with their laundry system. They sew small colored thread into your clothes in order to keep track of them and this permanently damaged a few of my pieces. All of the clothes that I had washed during our trip have small holes in them now, many in visible locations. I was pretty disappointed by this and would not choose to use their laundry service again.

Other than that I would highly recommend the HI Siem Reap hostel. You do not need to be a HI member to book, but you do have to pay 10-15% more. It still worked out to be fairly inexpensive.

The location of our hotel was perfect for us to walk to downtown to  go to one of the many restaurants, get a massage, or to grab some snacks from the convenience store.

While in Siem Reap we chose to eat out for most of our meals. For the first few days we didn’t have much luck finding good restaurants however by the end of our stay we found a few nice places to eat. Here are some of the places that we discovered.

Nai was one of the first restaurants that we encountered and while there selection is a little hit or miss they do have some very tasty sandwiches. Also, like many other locations in Siem Reap a lot of the specials came with a free beer! They had a huge menu with lots of pictures.  Check out this tomb!

After several days we wandered into an area with much better restaurants. One great but unexpected find was Viva, a Mexican restaurant.

The food at Viva is really good and coming from California probably the best Mexican that we had in all of Southeast Asia. Here you can see we simply devoured a plate of taquitos with fresh guacamole and salsa. In addition to Mexican food they make some asian dishes so this is a good place for groups that can’t decide on a single cuisine.

We also stopped into the Yolo Bar for beers and to play a game of jenga once or twice. I don’t remember if we had any food there but the beer was nice and cold!

Other than eating out we got two or three cheap massages that helped our sore muscles. The massage place that we went to has a bunch of comfy chairs out on the sidewalk. You take off your shoes, roll up your pant legs and a nice Cambodian woman or man rubs the aches out of your shins for about $6. We definitely needed it after all the walking!

For our trip into the Angkor Archeological Park and when we wanted to relax in our room we went to one of the many off brand 7-11’s and picked up snacks or drinks as needed. I even bought a cheap pair of headphones after I lost mine. These are not as nice as the 7-11’s you find in Thailand and are more like the ones back home.

That’s all I can think to mention about the city of Siem Reap. While I had a lot of fun in Siem Reap I don’t think that I will be back for a long time. I feel a lot like I’ve seen Angkor Wat but have yet to see Cambodia.

Next time I am going to talk about our trip to Angkor Wat, the Bayon, and Ta Prohm.

Taking the sleeper train to Bangkok and traveling to Siem Reap

Rather than take a plane to Bangkok we decided to try the overnight sleeper train. You can choose to travel in first class, which includes a private berth with air conditioning, or you have the option to go second class with or without air conditioning. Second class is more like a dorm room with an open plan and beds along the walls of the train. You leave in the evening and arrive very early in the morning.

Because first class was sold out we decided to get second class tickets with air conditioning. Second Class was comfortable and it was a fun trip. During the day you sit at a table with two cushioned seats and at night these are converted into two bunk beds that come out of the wall. If you’re interested there are pictures on seat61, a site dedicated to the various forms of rail travel all over the world. We were on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai route.

Some of the food left something to be desired but there was plenty of it. It still amazes me how many meals are included when I am using public transportation in Southeast Asia. We didn’t even need to go to the dining car for snacks. Here is a picture of our dinner:

The berths were pretty comfortable and with the curtains drawn fairly private. I’m fairly picky and I even managed to sleep some. I wish that I had gotten a picture of them but I guess I was too sleepy! Here is a picture of us rolling along.

We arrived in Bangkok early in the morning and though not quite refreshed, in good shape.

In Bangkok we stayed at the Good Day hostel for a few days. We rented a private room with access to a communal bathroom. Our room had a bunk which was kind of fun. It reminded me a lot of being a kid. I got the bottom bunk. The rooms are very clean and had outlets accessible everywhere which I thought was great. There was one bathroom for the floor and it was also very clean and nicely decorated. The toilets and showers are in stalls so it’s a little more private than a locker room. All and all I had a good stay here and was very comfortable.

Then we were off to Siem Reap to check out Angkor Wat! The plane ride was uneventful. Siem Reap has a tiny airport and thankfully a very short visa check in process.

You actually use US dollars in Cambodia, which would have been more convenient if I had known about it before, lol. You also want to make sure that all your bills are in decent condition as most places will not accept bills that are overly dirty or in any way ripped.

Here is our plane! We arrived safely and were ready to check into our hotel. Next time I will talk about the city of Siem Reap.

From Mae Chaem and back to Chiang Mai

I didn’t actually take great notes during this period and I’m writing months later, so I’m just going to summarize what I remember about the rest of the trip.

When my back was manageable we left for Mae Chaem on the scooter. I thought this was the best option as while I could have taken a bus, they’re honestly super crammed and not very comfortable. Plus, you are stuck! No stops. With this arrangement I was able to take breaks  when I needed them to stretch or walk around for a bit. I don’t remember much about the journey but I do recall a little about Mae Chaem.

Mae Chaem is small town and unlike most everywhere else in Thailand there wasn’t the plethora of ready restaurants to greet us. We ended up staying at the Mae Chaem Hotel and eating both dinner and breakfast at the restaurant there. The hotel itself was a little bit run down. They have both a main hotel with rooms, and some private cabins in the back. The room they showed us in the hotel was horrible. It was moldy smelling and visibly dirty. We were both horrified and unsure about staying here, but the cabins in the back were much cleaner and nicer looking. Eric decided he’d had enough of looking and just took it.

I remember that I actually ordered something called “fried pork” something or other, only to get a big plate of pork rinds! The server had a good laugh at my expense, lol. Now is probably a good time to mention you should be careful of English translations as they can be pretty fast and loose.

While the cabin was reasonably comfortable it was super cold at night. In addition the pillows were really weird. Twice the size of normal pillows and desperately hard. In the morning I was ready to move on.

I remember looking around on review sights and taking a walk through the downtown, but we just weren’t able to find anything open for breakfast. We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant again to keep things simple.  I was ready to be back in Chiang Mai!

Oh Chiang Mai, how I missed thee. Actually it was pretty stressful getting back. We came back on the exact day that our rented scooters were due and had to pick up some luggage we had left behind at our long term rental place. My back was still hurting a lot too and I couldn’t help out much.

I think we made the rentals by the skin of our teeth and managed to find some Khao Soi Gai. Unfortunately this was probably the worst Khao Soi of the trip! I remember the spices weren’t quite right and they had bits of dry chicken breast instead of the traditional leg. Pretty disappointing for our last time. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant and I don’t feel like it’s really worth looking up.

Next we found an inexpensive hotel called Viraporn’s Place. Why we stayed there is kind of a funny story. Like all of Thailand there was a 1 inch step once you get out of the stairway which I did not see. I totally ate it and busted up my ankle!

The owner was pretty apologetic, but he also made a joke that we had to stay there now, lol! I actually have sort of a dark sense of humor so I thought it was pretty funny. Also true! I didn’t want to walk around looking for another place after that.

Viraporn’s Place was a nice break and I was very comfortable there. Other than that I don’t really remember much about this period. I vaguely recall walking around the downtown backpacker market, and going to eat at this restaurant where I took this picture:

I remember walking down a kind of sketchy alleyway, only to find the restaurant at the end of it.  There was a sign above the door with a weird name. It specialized it a certain type of Thai food but I don’t remember what was special about it (Isaan? Northern Thai?).

After some googling I’m pretty sure that it was at Lert Ros. Even the tabletops look similar to some of the other pictures on tripadvisor. It specializes in Northeastern Thai cuisine and is recommended on the Lonely Planet website.

I remember that we were seated right away and the food was amazing. We ordered the grilled fish, a curry in banana leaf dish, and a clay pot soup. The fish was my favorite and it was especially delicious with the red dipping sauce. Ask for seconds because you will need a lot!

After a few days of relaxation in Chiang Mai we took the sleeper train to Bangkok in order to catch our flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia! On to our next adventure!

The Lunar Station Escape Room from Maze Rooms

For our final puzzle room we booked the Lunar Station with Maze Rooms. From the description I wasn’t really sure what to expect other than it takes place on the Moon which seemed really cool. We booked kind of early in the afternoon so first we needed to find some grub.

I thought that I had this all perfectly planned out only to realize that Maze Rooms are actually spread out over several locations. The place that I picked for lunch, Belizean Paradise, while it was not as close as I thought was only 15-20 minutes away which worked out okay. The parking lot is really hard to get into if you’re going the wrong direction so if you find yourself in that situation just go around or you will be stuck there forever.

We ordered some Oxtail stew, the chicken plate (a steal at only $5), and some panades with onion chutney. I also requested some of the Marie Sharp Habenero Pepper sauce. Everything was delicious, from the oxtail stew to the chicken and the rice with red beans. The panades, which is sort of like an empanada with tuna fish filling was really good with the onion chutney. Oh and I almost forgot a got a glass of the Sour Sap juice. That I’m not sure that I liked. I kept reminding me of something but I’m not sure what. It was a fun thing to try in any case. I’m definitely glad that we found the place and had the opportunity to eat there!

Now that we had our fuel we were ready to tackle our last escape room of the trip, the Lunar Station.

Going in we were both a little skeptical. We were a little early and just so happened to be the first customers of the day so no one was there when we arrived. I think that we ended up calling to make sure we were in the right location and it turned out the owner was stuck in traffic.

Still, once we were instead we changed into our jumpsuits and got ready for our mission! And I have to say, we were just blown away. The Lunar Station is a completely immersive, second generation puzzle room. We had never heard of the different types of puzzle rooms that were available and it was an awesome experience getting to try it out first hand without any spoilers.

Now the puzzles themselves were pretty easy. They were thematic and lots of fun. We finished with time to spare and you are in for a treat if you manage to escape!

This was really the highlight of our escape room trip and really inspired both of us. It might have been a little crazy to go somewhere purely for escape rooms but we had so much fun, which is the most important thing.

Next I think that I will tackle the end of my Thailand trip. I’ve been putting it off and writing this I realize how much you forget. Who knows, maybe that will open me up to travel to some more new and exciting places!