Traipsing around Thailand

For those of you who didn’t know, I traveled to Thailand back in August and September for seventeen days. It was a completely last-minute trip and it was also completely amazing. I planned on backpacking solo but when my mom expressed interest in accompanying me I was thrilled – how special that we got to experience Thailand together!

My mom and I are the perfect traveling companions. We care (generally) about similar things, have similar ideas of how we’d like to spend our time, and don’t insist upon trying our digestive systems too severely (in fact, we try not to). Apart from a few “Eeep!” moments (like when that mouse ran over my foot near the cathedral after mass in Bangkok – gross!), it was an incredibly fun time. We explored ancient cities, saw temples, lounged on the beach, rode elephants, faced down tigers, took cooking lessons, went shopping, tried new food, utilised nearly every means of transportation available, made paper out of poop, enjoyed museums, indulged at spas, and experienced anything and everything that caught our attention for the seventeen days we were together. Now, I have well over 1,500 photos from our trip (I went a little snap-crazy…) but I narrowed them down significantly in order to share a few from our adventure – Enjoy!

I had some time to myself in Bangkok before my mom joined me. My first full day there, I headed off to find a mass. I'm not sure if it was the ethereal music, the joy I normally feel at mass, or the fact that I slept all night on a cold train station bench...but I was moved to tears.

I had some time to myself in Bangkok before my mom joined me. My first full day there, I headed off to find a mass. I’m not sure if it was the ethereal music, the joy I normally feel at mass, or the fact that I slept all night on a cold train station bench…but I was moved to tears.

Our second night in Chiang Mai we ventured off to explore the famous night bazaar. Definitely a fun time!

Our second night in Chiang Mai we ventured off to explore the famous night bazaar. Definitely a fun time!

My mom is such a sport! She agreed to try out Doctor Fish (that's what it's called on Okinawa, at least) even though they creeped her out. Personally, I find the experience relaxing and rejuvenating.

My mom is such a sport! She agreed to try out Doctor Fish (that’s what it’s called on Okinawa, at least) even though they creeped her out. Personally, I find the experience relaxing and rejuvenating. Seriously, I love it!

Want to buy some food? All spices sold with cat hair at no extra charge.

Want to buy some food? All spices sold with cat hair at no extra charge.

One of our many dishes cooked at our cooking school! Nonstop cooking and eating from 0830-1630 makes for two happy (and full) backpackers.

One of our many dishes cooked at Baan Thai Cooking School! Nonstop cooking and eating from 0830-1630 makes for two happy (and full) backpackers.

After my own encounter with the tigers, we looked on as others went into the enclosure for a while. This particular tiger reeeeaally really wanted to join in on the fun. To see some pictures of me in the tiger cage, check out a previous post!

After my own encounter with the tigers, we looked on as others went into the enclosure for a while. This particular tiger reeeeaally really wanted to join in on the fun. To see some pictures of me at Tiger Kingdom, check out a previous post!

Making paper out of elephant poop finer? Nbd.

Making paper out of elephant poop fiber? Nbd.

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Staying in the old walled city of Chiang Mai meant we were within walking distance of dozens of temples. Pretty cool!

Staying in the old walled city of Chiang Mai meant we were within walking distance of dozens of temples. Pretty cool!

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Another buddha - and probably my favourite temple from the whole trip!

Another buddha – and probably the most beautiful temple from the whole trip!

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Anybody hungry for chicken on a stick? What about a chicken head? I hear the beak is delicious and crunchy.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok was enormous and would have been overwhelming had we not paid for our amazing tour guide - who then informed us that the movie Anna and the King is illegal in Thailand. What??

The Grand Palace in Bangkok was enormous and would have been overwhelming had we not paid for our amazing tour guide – who then informed us that the movie Anna and the King is banned in Thailand. What??

While at the Grand Palace these Imperial Guards were more than happy to pose for a shot! The guy second to the left is totally hamming it up.

While at the Grand Palace these Imperial Guards were more than happy to pose for a shot! The guy second to the left is totally hamming it up.

The top end of the famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. I knew 150 feet was going to be long, but this was impressive nonetheless.

The top end of the famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok. I knew 150 feet was going to be long, but this was impressive nonetheless.

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Wat Arun was our favorite wat to check out! It wasn't too crowded when we were there (rainy season!), and we got to hop on a neat water taxi to get there. The steps to the top were STEEP though - some were spaced a good 2.5 feet apart!

Wat Arun was our favorite wat to check out! It wasn’t too crowded when we were there (rainy season!), and we got to hop on a neat water taxi to get there. The steps to the top were STEEP though – some were spaced a good 2.5 feet apart!

Riding in a tuk tuk back to the river taxi!

Riding in a tuk tuk back to the river taxi!

One day we took a 20 baht train ride (and then a sketchy water taxi) to the ancient city of Ayutthaya! We decided to rent some bikes (50baht for the day) to ride around the ruins. To give you an idea of how cheap this awesome day was, 30 baht = 1 dollar.

One day we took a 20 baht train ride (and then a sketchy water taxi) to the ancient city of Ayutthaya! We decided to rent some bikes (50 baht for the day) to ride around the ruins. To give you an idea of how cheap this awesome day was, 30 baht = 1 dollar.

Buddha in a tree! An obligatory stop while exploring Ayutthaya.

Buddha in a tree! An obligatory stop while exploring Ayutthaya.

One more shot of Ayutthaya! Isn't it beautiful? I felt at times like I was back in Pompeii while exploring the ruins. Did you know that at one time Ayutthaya was the center of trade and global relations? Even Louis XIV had diplomatic envoys sent to Ayutthaya!

One more shot of Ayutthaya! Isn’t it beautiful? I felt at times like I was back in Pompeii while exploring the ruins. Did you know that at one time Ayutthaya was the center of trade and global relations? Even Louis XIV had diplomatic envoys sent to Ayutthaya!

Okay, this boat ride was insane. We took this from the Jim Thompson House down the canal in order to get the the Temple of the Golden Mount. It was pretty much only locals (which didn't surprise us), and you literally hop on and off, even if the boat is moving. They don't really stop for long so you have to be quick! You also have to walk around the (very thin) edge of the boat in order to get where you want to sit.

Okay, this boat ride was insane. We took this from the Jim Thompson House down the canal in order to get to the Temple of the Golden Mount. It was pretty much only locals (which didn’t surprise us), and you literally hop on and off, even if the boat is moving. They don’t really stop for long so you have to be quick! You also have to walk around the (very thin) edge of the boat in order to get where you want to sit.

One more shot of the canal boat to give you an idea of what getting on and off was like. This was the average gap left between the boat and the pier.

One more shot of the canal boat to give you an idea of what getting on and off was like. This was the average gap left between the boat and the pier.

Top of the Golden Mount.

Top of the Golden Mount.

We indulged for a meal and ate lunch at the Jim Thompson House before our overnight train South. The food was incredible! For appetisers we had fruit smoothies, Spring Rolls, and Chicken in a "special" house sauce.

We indulged for a meal and ate lunch at the Jim Thompson House before our overnight train South. The food was incredible! For appetizers we had fruit smoothies, Spring Rolls, and Chicken in a special house sauce.

The view from my lower berth on the overnight train. This thing was definitely no frills! I tried telling myself I imagined the cockroach on the wall...it didn't work. And I didn't get a lot of sleep.

The view from my lower berth on the overnight train. This thing was definitely no frills! I tried telling myself I imagined the cockroach on the wall…it didn’t work. And I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

This was my view. Man, my life is great!

This was my view from our beachfront resort on Koh Samui. Man, my life is great!

Paradise. A perfect end to a perfect vacation with my mom!

Paradise. A perfect end to a perfect vacation with my mom!

I will never ever forget this trip. We had a blast. Thanks for being such a great travel companion and for being so willing to try new things with me mom!

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Wild Thing, I think I love you

I am the last person in the world my husband, parents, siblings, or friends would choose to come face to face with a wild creature. I’ve always been a complete wuss around animals – I blame it on the fact that I grew up in a pet-free home with a courageous father who never faltered in his duty to keep my life as bug-free as possible. (What a saintly man!)

This being so, why did I find myself in such a predicament? I was in a cage, in a corner of said cage, with a very large and very agitated adult tiger prowling toward me, and nothing between us but two feet of air. Staring at me. Like I was the next meal.

“Breathe in. Breathe out. Stay calm. Just stay calm and nothing bad will happen. Don’t act afraid. Perhaps today isn’t your day. Please Jesus, let today not be my day! Okay. Breathe. Just remember to keep breathing.”

Surprisingly, with a few urgent taps of my guide’s bamboo stick (a sorry excuse for a tiger deterrent if ever there was one), the tiger allowed himself to be lead elsewhere. My mom (watching from behind the fence) took the following photo of me moments after I realized I wasn’t about to be lunch. Yeah. I felt pretty ecstatic. (Wouldn’t you?)

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Despite those few heart-stopping moments, it wasn’t all completely terrifying – And despite how imbecilic I may be for actually paying to enter an enclosure with four animals that would as soon kill me as look at me, I had an amazing and unforgettable time. Check out some photos from my morning!

Signing away my right to file a lawsuit should a tiger maim (or eat) me ↓

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The rules inside the tiger enclosure ↓

IMG_3447I was told repeatedly to lay on top of the tiger. This was all I could manage. ↓

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At 2.5 years old, this male tiger was the largest (and thankfully laziest) of the bunch. ↓

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I’m convinced this guy wanted to eat me. This was taken just before he turned around and cornered me. ↓

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Yeah, I totally do this every day. ↓

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So. Big. ↓

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Yes. I am actually holding a tiger’s tail. ↓

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In 17 days spent exploring Thailand, my tiger encounter was definitely a high-point. Despite the danger of getting close and personal to fully grown tigers and despite the fact that I’m no great animal lover, my morning at Tiger Kingdom is something I won’t readily forget. (Not least of all because that one tiger freaked me out!) It was crazy, incredible, heart-stopping, and surreal. If I didn’t have these photos I probably wouldn’t believe I had the guts to do this.

Next time you’re in Chiang Mai, do this. You won’t regret it – I certainly don’t.