STEP

For those of you in the US traveling abroad with worried and overbearing mothers (jk mom) you should look into the STEP program to further let your government monitor your movements, AGAIN JUST KIDDING. NSA please don’t abduct me. Basically, you’re giving the US embassies abroad that you’re comin’ in hot and to keep an eye out for you in case things go south. It’s a good concept should a natural disaster strike or you need legal, medical, or financial help (WOAH). It’s relatively quick, plug in the dates, your passport ID number, give them your email, and a phone number to include you in the phone tree- should any travel alerts come up or information regarding your country of visit.

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Unfortunately, I experienced the timeliness and thoroughness of the US Embassy Jakarta. They emailed me notifying me about a suicide bombing in East Jakarta. Attached to the email were brief details of the attack and recommendations to double check travel plans and adjust accordingly. It also provided multiple resources, phone numbers, and websites to further follow updates or reach the your nearest embassy or Consulate General. I didn’t think I’d need it and signed up to placate my mother but will definitely keep this in mind for any other extended travels.

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Day 13 pt 1

Day 13- Seminyak/Ubud

We arranged for our driver from the airport to shuttle us around today for 650,000 rupiah or approximately $50 USD for eight hours. Everything he said ended either in “yes my friend” or “brother.” Can we go here? Of course brother. Is this place worth the stop? Yes, my friend. It was very endearing. He’s in his late 20’s and very chatty when we were up and quiet when we needed some alone time. He would wait in the car and it felt like he put a beeper on us because when we would walk back to the car he would pop up from his seat with his bright red polka-dotted neck pillow and a huge smile. If he wasn’t in the car he was making friends with the nearby shop keepers or smoking a cigarette with old men. He would always keep an eye out for us and make sure he’d beat us back to the car by a few steps.

Our first stop was an outlet mall of sorts. He was as excited as us to look around because as soon as he parked he said “I will come with you. See something!” He was bored after about 20 min but he’d jump up when he’d see us and ask if we wanted to put our new things down in the car. And then follow up with “no rush no rush, look around.”

Back in the car we chatted with our driver. He was anxious to know where we came from, what we do, what it’s like at home, the cost of things, the beaches, you name it. He described life in Bali to be very hard on locals and very expensive.

For example, hotel workers work a regular workweek- 5 days a week 8 hours a day. But in Bali there’s an additional 6th day a week for with a 10 hour shift. And roughly a hotel worker would make $4-500 USD per month. most of these people know Balinese, Indonesian, English, and/or Japanese.

We told him we were looking for a small condo/apartment at home for $300,000 USD and he couldn’t believe it. He said we could buy a small hotel here…

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Ubud seems to be a quaint artisan community, we went through a silver district- very popular in Bali. A woodwork area with lots of furniture, wooden sculptures, rattan cages baskets chairs and tables, intricate doors and hanging pieces. Masonry as well, with large statues and pillars ready made to welcome guests in to homes or temples.

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We visited a batik weaving factory and watched women use wax to hand make designed as well as weave. The prices were quite expensive but they used silk and I assume cotton.

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We also checked out a couple of silver stores on the insistence of our driver. He said he loves silver! The items are again handmade with many pedants available, large rings, bracelets, and earrings. I tried really hard to find something but couldn’t find a piece I really loved and worth the price tag. Most pieces were about $50-100 USD.

For lunch he took us to a place he knew and enjoyed with his girlfriend. A BBQ place specializing ribs ๐Ÿ˜› And a coconut because yes.

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I’ll post more about the temples separately since we went to a few. Ttyl ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿป

Day 10

Day 10- Ao Nang/Kuala Lumpur

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Okay for real, our last time in Ao Nang and bye bye Thailand. ย I feel like I’ve been saying that for three days. Everything to see or do here is water oriented and I think we’re about waterlogged right now. We’ve swam, snorkled, been on the long tail boat, and kayaked so I think we hit all the main attractions. We missed Phi Phi Island due to the unpredictable weather but I imagine it’s like the other 82615183 other islands we saw. So last night we caught up on some Netflix franรงais. Merci beaucoup Vanessa! PSA: remember to log out of your account.

So a quick brekkie, massage, lunch, shuttle, airport. Again the shuttle was about 30 min late but we got there in the half the time because the driver was driving like a maniac. Like Thailand maniac so US suicidal… can’t complain for 300 baht!

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Asiaair you sneaky bastards. Prebooking seats, meals, baggage, etc is clearly all the rage. You cater to those who preordered food first then go back along the aisle to sell the remaining meals. You repeatedly announce the ‘hot seats’ are for your premium guests. We get it ๐Ÿ˜‚ we’re being cheap!

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Bout an hour and a half south we arrive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Ok. DMK, Thailand airport was ghetto. BKK, Thailand airport okay okay not bad ๐Ÿ˜‰. Krabi, Thailand airport uhm did I miss it? Chiang Mai, Thailand airport o-k. KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA WHY ARENT WE TALKING ABOUT YOU? There’s literally a sign that says, ‘a mall with an airport’ and I think that’s pretty accurate. It feels like we’re in a full shopping mall with food courts and everything. We barely left the airport to check into a rinky dink hotel for the night. I’m exaggerating. The hotel is perfectly fine it’s just not like what we’ve been staying at (shout out to Sandy for choosing the best of the best for like $30 bucks a night!).

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Seriously I think we’d come back just to shop. Not to mention our USD to Malaysian ringgit is pretty damn strong. About 1:4 so if you get the chance, I’d say save your shopping for SE Asia. Wishing I really did leave more room for shopping ๐Ÿ˜› Then again those baggage fees will blindside you like a linebacker when you don’t check beforehand haha whoops…

Day 9

Day 9- Ao Nang

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Today I stopped by Auntie Moon’s because her sign said laundry 35 baht but when we went inside it was definitely not 35 baht/kilo. But that’s okay because we already trekked it down from Mount Olympus took a tuk tuk and were ready for some clean clothes. I don’t know why I thought I’d wash my clothes in the sink as we go because it’s a lot of work. Wringing out two shirts and I’m like ok that’s enough. Fatal flaw number one: I brought too much clothes. When you bring too much clothes you wear your shirt for about two hours and toss it on the side and grab another one because you got a little sweaty. Then you don’tย remember which shirt is semi clean and which one is actually dirty because it’s all in the same pile.

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Fatal flaw two: I didn’t bring enough shampoo and conditioner. You ration yourself enough for however many days but realistically you’re taking minimum two full showers a day. It’s so sticky hot here you feel constantly dehydrated.

Number three: being one pair of shoes and one pair of slippers. No you’re not gonna remember to rotate your shoes, you’re grabbing whatever’s readily available. Come on Amara, let’s be real.

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I did learn from Auntie Moon that the hotel I’m staying at is always busy and the owner is very ‘business brain’ or very smart. She explained that Aonang Fiore really built up the tourism industry in their town (some of it not so legally, she said some marijuana and/or other drugs) but the residents don’t mind because it’s good for them overall. She’s a talker and told me a lot more but I couldn’t quite understand it all- she tried in Japanese but looked so disappointed I didnn’t speak Japanese… I know Auntie Moon, I know.

Even the concierge at our hotel was explaining that they learn English in school but the overachiever in her also learned Arabic and something else and Thai. Yeah, four. She asked me how many languages I knew and I said one. So embarrassing… So so so many people and multilingual it’s amazing. Even flight attendants are at least bilingual!! Seriously, we gotta work on this America.

Anyway headed out soon. Talk to you later ๐Ÿ˜˜

Day 7

Day 7- Krabi

You really need to go with the flow in Thailand because when you ask for pick up at 7:45 and they roll up at 8:10 and you’re sitting in the van and they’re still smoking their cigarette at 8:15 you’re the only one who’s gonna be put out. I think their sense of time/urgency is a little different here but then again he’s getting paid either way…

Our first stop was the Emerald Pool in Krabi. Luckily it seems the rest of the world doesn’t wake up until 10 so we were still pretty early. We got to enjoy the pool to ourselves for a bit, take some pictures and doggy paddle around. For a couple hundred baht, you could walk the park and observe the natural course of water before and after the pools. Some spots were only a few inches deep to other more than standing height. It was extremely clear and you could even spot a few fish roaming around. The landscape varied so much just within the park alone.

Also somewhat nearby was a natural hot spring. The days are already so hot and humid, so the idea of a hot spring seemed out of the question but it wasn’t terrible. I didn’t think I was gonna overhear and pass out. Again, super beautiful. This is what you think of when you say Thailand- country and natural beauty. A lot of that is overwhelmed by the city, the hustle and bustle, and the overall tourism that seems to support the majority of the residents. But they all seem super hard working.

With us probably being some of the firsts at the park so many stalls were already set up with many of the women already preparing their first batches of food. Even we’ll into the night, men are waiting around by their tuk-tuks and trucks hoping to transport you around. They don’t seem to be concerned whether it’s a short trip or not. I admire their work ethic.

Even changing our hotels the employees are quick to grab your bags and load them ย into the truck. Tip doesn’t seem to be expected but definitely appreciated. We’re moving up the street so I’ll let you know how that goes ๐Ÿ˜˜

Day 5

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Day 5- Ao Nang

An early morning for us we’re picked up a tuk-tuk or a rickshaw. Basically, four of us in the carriage that’s attached to a smaller moped and driver. He also happens to be the captain of our vessel. And by vessel I mean Life of Pi looking wooden raft with a single motor. The motor looks about the size of a small car motor and it sits on the boat on a lever with a propeller on the end, adjustable like an oar. It’s got decent power but then again the water wasn’t too choppy. We island hopped for a few hours and honestly they all started to blur by the second island.

The islands are limestone with very green foliage. We’re told there’s monkeys on some but we didn’t see any. The water has a nice teal color to it but it’s was murky an oddly warm, possibly because of the heavy rains recently. The beaches are overrun with tourists many Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and American. I think being spoiled in Hawaii made me a bit of a beach snob because I wasn’t impressed. Everyone else was loving it and snorkeling but I’m sure we’ve got nicer beaches and clearer waters. Also, the warm water was really throwing me off. Like warm warm ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Midday we stopped on Hong Island while our driver/captain/interpreter/guide/chef made us some Thai dishes. One was a crab curry, a ceviche seafood platter, and traditional Thai chicken. It was pretty good and definitely things that I wouldn’t have chosen myself. By this time the weather took a turn and starting raining. Making the best of it we ran into the ocean instead of back to our boat. We had a mini photo shoot and waited out the rain.

Continuing along, we learned more about the islands and how some have natural barriers for fishing boats to wait out the storms. A couple of islands are even protected sanctuaries, I couldn’t understand if it were protecting the animals or plants or both, but we did a drive by. We saw a lot of fish and jellyfish. We also learned that between high tide and low tide islands can be connected by sandbars, with the water fluctuating as much as 3 meters (almost 10 feet).

It was well worth the 7500 baht ($215 USD) per couple with a very personal tour. I loved the wooden boat and homemade looking engine. Our guides were friendly and knew what they were doing. At one point we stopped at a small island to wait out the winds and rain. The food, drinks, and snacks were all inclusive. They carried everything from life vests to snorkels while we roamed the beach for a spot to set up. Even by the end of the day when we were playing bumper boats to find the best parking spot they made sure we were taken care of.

Too bad the weather couldn’t hold out because we had another tour scheduled with him tomorrow. He said the weather didn’t look good so it was best to cancel. So now that we’ve got a free day, Michael be scouring the internet for our next activity ๐Ÿ˜œ maybe an ATV tour or something…

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Day 4

IMG_5233.JPGTuesday’s are rest days. After Michael succumbed to the sickness, we were all very weary about any type of Thai food. So instead we opted for McDonald’s breakfast. I know. So American. But instead of teens with attitude we got teens with customer service. I ordered an egg mcmuffin and they forgot the ham or bacon as they like to call it. I showed the cashier my sandwich and she looked horrified. She took it back quickly ran, and I mean ran, back to the kitchen and then back to me telling me she’ll bring it to the table. I like the effort but does it look like I’m starving? ๐Ÿ˜‚ Relax!

After breakfast we went to Fah Lanna’s for a massage which boasted an almost perfect score on trip advisor. It was aight. Just kidding, I was putty. I think these ladies are part time masseuse part time rock climbers because their grip strength is not of this world.

Pretty uneventful day considering but nice nonetheless. Headed to the airport to head south. Be back soon…