Rumpus 泰国

Hey king, what's your first order of business?
Let the wild rumpus start!!!
Perfect answer!
One we say, off we go
Two we say, off we go
-Karen O and the Kids

Well, this blog is little late—OK, a lot late. Last January, we made like the birds and went south to Thailand. Thailand is amazing! Such a shame I never wrote anything about it—until now. So here goes: The Thailand Blog (only 1 year late). Let’s transport ourselves back in time to January 2013.

Too much reading? Just watch our 4 minute Thailand highlights video.

After landing in Bangkok, we hopped on an overnight bus north to lush and green Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is in the middle of the jungle, where the adventurous traveler can get personal with an elephant and descend steep mountain terrain by bicycle; and the not-so-adventurous can observe Buddhist monks and their temples, get massages and sip banana smoothies. We skipped the temples altogether, but not the banana smoothies (the best banana smoothie in the world is literally found in Chiang Mai).

Chiang Mai is made for the budget traveler. We leisured at Thailandwow Guesthouse for about $5 USD a night. The guesthouse only has a few private rooms, and I imagine they book up quickly. We stayed two nights in a private room and one night in the dorm. A dorm means you get one bunk bed out of maybe a dozen, and you are at the mercy of your fellow dorm mates’ activities. That is to say, you will wake up to the sounds of late-night partiers fumbling to their beds in the wee hours of the morning. Or worse yet, you have to listen to a half-drunk guy persuade a fellow female sojourner to go outside for a “talk” (he succeeded). Just shut up already! I am trying to sleep. If you aren’t a partier, reserve the private room.

Thailandwow was super comfortable and clean with a helpful staff. Kai served up a tasty fare of western and Thai dishes, while his sister arranged transportation and excursions.  Along with coffee, drinks, meals, travel services, one staff member also gave excellent Thai massages. For 250 Baht (~$7 USD), Peth spent an hour stretching, pulling, and soothing our muscles into submission. Thai massage is sort like doing yoga, without actually doing any work or meditation. Very relaxing and stretchy.

Thai massage will stretch you out like a noodle
Chiang Mai’s blue skies, balmy warmth, and flavorful food contrasted fiercely with Beijing’s smog envelope, dry frigid air, and MSG stir-fried noodles. My inner spirit (the one who loves-loves-loves to be outside running around) awakened from its Beijing-winter-induced slumber with a wicked steep downhill mountain biking excursion through Chiang Mai’s jungle terrain. We also supported eco-tourism with a visit to Elephant Nature Park (ENP). No elephant riding allowed here—only feeding and bathing. ENP rescues abandoned, abused, and sick work elephants, giving them space to roam, heal, and live out the rest of their lives in elephant heaven.

Have an elephant encounter in Chiang Mai

Jungle trekking, banana smoothies, fiery green curry, and chowing on tacos and sangria at The Salsa Grill …we could have stayed forever. But Thailand has so much more. So we jumped on a plane southbound to Thailand’s famous pristine beaches. We landed first in Krabi, and then chartered a small boat to Railay Beach. Railay’s kid-friendly calm beaches and resorts attract families, while its karst cliffs attract mountain climbers.   

Railay Beach is spectacular
Novice climbers (like us) can spend a day scaling Railay’s famous cliffs with Highland Rock Climbing. Highland provides energetic guides, equipment, and very importantly, coffee. Fully caffeinated, secured in our harnesses,  and gingerly edging up to 25 m (80 ft), we tried not to let the awe-inspiring view of the ocean and jungle distract us from our guide’s instructions coming from below: “Right, right, right. Put your foot ‘der! Yah! Yah!”  Nan’s island vibe -- dreadlocks,  generous maniacal laugh, and singing Bob Marley (and a maybe few joints) --  coupled with his expertise and encouragement gave us confidence and thrilled us. I imagined that I looked like Tom Cruise in the opening scene of Mission Impossible 2. I was Ethan Hunt, precariously suspended from a vertical cliff face only supported by my sheer strength. Ha! It’s amazing how rock climbing cables can make you feel invincible.

Rock climbing, a spectacular beach, and authentic Indian food at Utopia International Delights…we could have stayed forever. Well, I would have preferred to stay in a place with a flushing toilet. So provided that we had spent a few extra bucks a night…we could have stayed forever. But Thailand just has so much more. 

After meeting up with some fellow Americans in Krabi, we ferried over to Koh Lanta to chill seaside. That is what you do in Koh Lanta –chill. And chill we did at Fisherman’s Cottage. With the beach just a short walk from a private bungalow, fragrant and fiery curries ready on demand, and mangos, papayas, bananas and coconut available just down the street, we simply did not need to leave our paradise. But Koh Lanta’s coral reefs beckoned us. We took a boat and snorkeling tour to Koh Rok beach and its surrounding coral reefs. The snorkeling was amazing, Koh Rok beach pristinely beautiful, and the tour-provided food delicious. After snorkeling and later touring the coast by scooter, we returned to our beach relaxation.

Chillin' in Koh Lanta
Koh Rok Beach
Green curry, blazing orange sunsets, white sand, aquamarine water clear as glass framed by towering palms, and the days soothing and waning away with ease…we could have stayed in Koh Lanta forever. But we aren’t made of money and like all good things, the dream vacation had to end. So we returned to Beijing’s cold and smog with a suntan and sweet memories.

Now we are planning our next winter getaway to Cambodia. Hopefully it doesn’t take me a year to publish the Cambodia Blog.

Chinese word of the blog: 乐园 lè yuán (literally, happy + land for growing plants)
English translation: paradise

Click HERE to see more pictures of Chiang Mai
Click HERE to see more pictures of Railay
Click HERE to see more pictures of Koh Lanta