Asia In Photos Thailand The Nomadic Life

A Skipped Beat in Krabi, Thailand: Tuesday Travel Snapshot

Bringing you a travel snapshot from Beat Nomad’s archives each and every Tuesday:

Thai Street FoodI had a serious space-cadet moment when I was in Ko yao noi, a small island about an hour’s boat ride from Krabi, while traveling around Thailand last September. I said goodbye to my friends, packed up my bag, got on a boat, all ready to fly back to Madagascar and realized “wait — it’s Wednesday, not Thursday… I still have a whole other day in Thailand!” How did I spend it? Eating, of course. Sushi, iced coffee, and noodles were all obsessions of mine while traveling there, but don’t judge me for also getting overly-excited at a packet of freeze-dried raspberries in a 7-11. (RASPBERRIES! NO WAY! I haven’t eaten these in over a year!)

Anyways, this photo was taken at Krabi’s nighttime street food market, right on the ocean. I suspect that most of the food here is a mysterious meat-on-a-stick sort of thing — one of Thailand’s food options that never struck my palate much, but I always gravitated towards for their colorful displays.

Favorite part about Krabi: Oh, besides the food? The night market (not the one shown here) and its overload of sensory experiences, and all the super rad climbing spots (which I didn’t climb) nearby.

Least favorite part about Krabi: This really awkward Barbie-pink pedicure I got because it was raining and I couldn’t think of anything else to do — awkward because of the language barrier and uncomfortable chair.

Asia In Photos Thailand Travel

Scenes from a Beaten Path: Thailand

Girly, Tropical Drink

The humidity felt like a second skin as my new friend and I sat collecting “Chang” and “Leo” cans on a hostel porch. A strange distant sound interrupted our conversation.

“What was that?”
“It sounded like an elephant…”
“Impossible, we’re in a city.”

Twenty minutes later two men passed in front of our porch, leading a baby elephant by with a blinking red bike light attached to it’s tail.

“I suppose it was an elephant.” One of us said, and immediately the mood felt lighter, as though we had just created our first and only inside joke with each other, that we had just experienced one of those anecdotes no backpacker in Thailand leaves without. It reminded us that we were far from home. Reminded me that I was far from my home away from home. When would either of us ever have our conversations interrupted by a baby elephant in America, Switzerland… or even Madagascar? (And for those of you wondering, no, there are no elephants in Madagascar.) Thailand may have been part of a well-worn backpackers route, and I may love to stick my nose up at the throngs of tourists in Paris, Costa Rica, or Thailand from my seriously un-visited small town in Madagascar, but I’ll be honest: I had a damn good time and took photographs to prove it.

Suhkhothai WatBoardwalk SunsetMangrove ForestKoh Yao NoiFood Stall in Krabi

Photos: (1) Girly drink at a bar (2) Sukhothai Wat (3) Boardwalk Sunset in Koh Yao Noi (4) Signs in the Mangrove Forest (5) Women collecting crabs at low tide (6) Nighttime food stalls in Krabi

The Nomadic Life

Indulging in Creature Comforts in Bangkok, Thailand

Iced CoffeeI nodded my head dumbly as the girl next to me listed the names of floating markets and Thai Wats (temples) she had visited since arriving a few days earlier in Bangkok.

“Are you going to check out the Palace?” She asked.

“Yeaah….” I said, rather than admitting to the fact that after a year of barebones living in Madagascar, I hadn’t bothered to research the popular tourist attractions in the Thai capitol and indulgently went straight for the cluster of Bangkok’s malls instead. While I had loathed shopping malls in the States, I had escaped the afternoon rains in one every day since arriving in Bangkok. Each day when the other hostel guests left in search of “real Thai culture”, furiously snapping photos of monks and Buddha statues, I was shedding a small tear of joy at the site of a Starbucks. I know my past self might give my current self a self-righteous eyebrow raise for buying a McFlurry and Starbucks latte, but pretentious ideals be damned — it feels good to have a coffee made right.

Besides, hiding out in a shopping mall didn’t necessarily imply hiding out from the nature of the city. From what my brief encounter with the city, the stylish, well-designed commercial hubs of Bangkok sought to achieve more socially and culturally, than the drab shopping mall outposts of suburban America. Some, such as  Terminal 21 — a mall themed after an airport with each level representing a different global city — created a full sensory experience of escapism. Shopping MallThe Tokyo floor was filled with independent designers selling their clothes (some irresistible, some awful) while the basement housed the cutest, dessert-happy food court I had ever stumbled on. The top floor food court was modeled after the San Francisco’s Fisherman’s wharf with such attention to detail it felt obvious that the designers had traveled to and gained a good sense of each of theses places. Even beyond aesthetics, food court food in Bangkok malls were actually good.  “If you want to eat like Thais do,” a half-Thai friend living in Bangkok admitted, “head for a food court.” After trading in money for a set of paper coupons, head for whatever counter looks most enticing. Personally, I decided “most enticing” meant sushi, shrimp dumplings, and mango sticky rice.

Eventually, we did wander around a temple, hopped a boat for the hell of it, and crashed a hipster bar on Thanon Mahachai (near our equally hip hostel, Niras) decorated with fixie bikes and old metal lawn furniture. But for the lion’s share of my time in Bangkok, I simply reveled in the overwhelming availability of foods I’d craved but not seen in months (bacon!), taxis that didn’t explode exhaust fumes into the back seat, and the fact that stylish young girls far outnumbered barefoot women mixing floral with plaid. Bangkok may not be filled with the “traditional” “exotic” or even “beautiful” most people travel to South-East Asia for, but it still had an intoxicating pulse distinctly its own.

Bangkok Graffiti

Photos: (1) Iced Latte at a Cafe (2) A Bangkok Shopping Mall (3) Bangkok Graffiti of Meats

Peace Corps The Nomadic Life Travel

From Madagascar to Thailand: Getting Off the Red Island

“Okay, let’s get the fuck outta Dodge,” Liz said as we hopped on our mountain bikes and started the long journey from her village at the foothills of Andringitra National Park and up north. We had an hour of biking on rough, dusty roads, then a packed full bus to the nearest town, and another bus to the nearest city. We were remote, and after several straight weeks of being there we were ready to leave and eat a friggin’ pizza.

But now, several weeks later and having finished the one month-long course of teaching ESL to guides in Morarano, the launching point for most independent travelers into Andringitra National Park, I’m prepping to leave the island entirely. Over the past year of living in Madagascar it’s remoteness and the inaccessibility of some of its most beautiful places has been part of its charm — the island isn’t overcrowded with tourists, and even less of these choose to travel Madagascar independently (although this is totally doable!) — but I feel like it’s time to go somewhere that feels more connected to the rest of the world. Sometimes Madagascar seems like the edge of the world, forgotten, and totally detached. We may not be as isolated as Micronesia, for example, but I have still joked that we’re so off the grid that if the world were to end in 2012, it would forget to take Madagascar with it.

Anyways, in a few hours I’ll be on a plane towards Thailand, a country notorious for its tourist friendly paths and booming Westernized capitol, and the thought is a terrible mix of excitement and nervousness. Do I still remember how to ride a train? Will I stare at white people too much? Will convenient stores, shopping malls, and air conditioning be a jarring reminder of modernity? These are the things that run through my head as I flip through the guide book left behind by another Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) at our transit house; nevermind the Buddhist temples, elephants, and jungles it talks about.

Mostly, I’m curious to see how different a country can appear to someone who is flying directly from America or Europe (such as a good friend from D.C. who will be arriving two weeks after me!) versus a scruffy PCV living in Africa whose reality for the past year has been incredibly un-modern.

“Don’t worry,” another Peace Corps friend told me, “I still think there will be an element of third-world there that will make you feel more comfortable,”

“You mean like open-air markets and people shitting in the road?”

“Yeah, maybe…”

I was being facetious, but the friend had a point. While some things may be overwhelming, others may be strikingly familiar. I doubt I’ll be able to resist a constant comparison between Madagascar and Thailand, but we will see. Either way, it’s great to “get the fuck outta Dodge” for a few weeks.

Photo: (1) The view from Morarano