December 31, 2015

new years eve

what a magical night.  i love the wish lanterns in thailand and could think of no better way to bring in the new year. 

the yoga center was holding a 24 hour meditation service for each of the 24 hours around the globe.  since the US is so far behind thailand i woke up on new year's day and went for the meditation when it was turning midnight in the US.  made me feel connected to the family and friends who were celebrating.

there were flags for every country and as it turned midnight in each time zone the list was read and the flags from those countries put onto the altar.

it made one of the best new year's celebrations for me.

December 27, 2015

not such a secret beach

secret beach isn't such a secret anymore.  it was packed this week as i expect most beaches were.  it's my favorite beach on the island and one that i always can find a friend either on the beach, in the water or at the beach bar.

the polish/burmese couple who run the restaurant and bungalows are just fantastic and make me feel at home anytime i am there.  you can check out the place here .

the reef is just a short swim off the beach so there it's a great snorkel spot with lots of color and plenty of curious fish. 

when you are tired of the food, fish and sand you can get a massage at the hut right on the beach.

December 25, 2015

christmas and a full moon

it's christmas but there isn't a decorated tree in sight.  the guys at the 7-11 painted a very sad looking snowman on the window.  it's a crazy day because not only is it a holy holiday it is also a full moon.  the asians are much more excited by a full moon than christmas.

koh phangan is home to the world famous full moon party which occurs, yep, you guessed it, every full moon.  thousands of people come to the island for the few days around the full moon to celebrate and it's been going on for over 30 years.  so the island population peaks then and traffic accidents and drug arrests go up but the actual party is on the east side of the island so it doesn't impact the west side so much.

December 23, 2015

the bungalow

the bungalow i'm in this time is a different location but it fits me perfectly - it's on the jungle side instead of the beach side which means it's a bit more quiet and that's good because it's high season.  on the beaches the development is pretty dense so when a property is full it gets a bit crowded for me.  

there's a great patio, small living area that opens to the kitchen, a separate bed and bath area in a very typical western style.  it's a bit pricey for the island but it is high season and one of my least favorite things to do is spend a lot of time looking for accommodations.  the weekly price is 4000 Baht or $110.  it's surrounded by coconut trees and occasionally you'll see one drop to the ground.  

the 'street' getting to the bungalow is really just a big sandy path that turns into a river of mud anytime it rains.  this one section covered in water never dried out the whole time i was there but it built my confidence on the scooter as i learned to navigate the river and wet sand without even a minor wipeout.

this bungalow is between a couple of houses and so there are actually two wireless networks that i can access so if one is down i just switch over to the other.  in general the wireless access on the island is fast and consistent.  unless it rains.... then you lose electricity.  

the one factor that usually divides the price of accommodations is air conditioning and although it's cool enough in the evenings it's pretty warm mid day so it's nice to have but not really necessary this time of year.

December 21, 2015

time to enjoy the island

enough about airlines, travel nightmares, military regimes and such.  i'm on the island and it takes me 10 minutes of riding around on a scooter to forget everything outside the bubble that is Koh Phangan. i'm flooded with memories of the last time i stayed on the island and as i ride around Sithanu it feels like home.  i check in at the yoga center and head down to the beach to my favorite spot to get a fresh coconut.  

later i meet up with friends at for dinner.  this is my favorite vegan restaurant on the island but everything is good and the plant based proteins all taste like meat or chicken.  i'm getting hungry just thinking about the kebab plate they make.

December 18, 2015

luk thep dolls - it's really creepy

few things register a 10 on my creepiness level anymore but this one for me is off the charts.  my first glimpse of this was at the Bangkok airport where i saw two adult asian men carrying dolls.  no big deal - probably toys for their daughters, right?  then why would they be stroking their hair and holding them as if they were real babies?  i wasn't the only who took a second look at what was going on.  i suspected it was a kind of therapy thing for fearful flyers so i dismissed it but turns out i was wrong. 

luk thep are dolls considered to possess a child's spirit.  they are believed to have supernatural powers, bring good fortune and are treated like real children.  it's an exploding trend in Thailand [who are a superstitious bunch anyhow].  

airlines have created policies around luk thep passengers - even selling seats for them.

it's like a Thai marketing executive with a bad quarter saw the movie Chuckie and created the trend.  don't laugh, i've worked at companies that have come up with really bizarre strategies.  whether it's a trend that goes away or a superstition that hangs around my first glimpse of it was really creepy.  so if you've been following my posts about flying the regional airlines you now understand why i recommend you get a luk thep.

December 16, 2015

can i blame the Thai military?

there were a few environmental issues [like 12 inches of snow in Denver] that dragged out the time it took to get to Thailand.  but there are some other things going on that travelers, tourists and anyone who flies in the area should know.

the FAA [United States Federal Aviation Authority] has down graded the safety level of Thai Airways for 'failure to meet minimum international standards' - this doesn't come as a surprise to anyone because it's a decision that is made after multiple warnings have been issued to the carrier that they are being 'red flagged'.

why did this happen?  i have very fond memories of my first trip on Thai Airways to Bangkok in 2003 where i flew first class and was treated like a princess.  Thai Airways is the major carrier in and out of Bangkok and is a state-controlled company that the military government targeted for reform after seizing control in May of 2014.  well, they've reformed it.  now they can't fly into the US.  

why do i care?  i like United Airlines.  i have a ton of miles on United and because of that they treat me well.  Thai Airlines has been part of the United partner alliance but they are pulling away from them because of the downgrade.  so basically my airline of choice has turned off the pipeline of flights to Asia. 

add that to the problems with other regional carriers like Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines and what was once an easy affordable region to fly around has now become a big roll of the dice.  i can only suggest you take a Luk Thep [ that's my next post]. 

Bangkok Airways which is the domestic carrier in Thailand is getting a special post because they deserve special recognition as the AIRLINE WITH THE WORST SERVICE. 

December 14, 2015

traveling is not always fun

after some time in the US i'm headed from Denver, Colorado to Thailand for a month of snorkeling, yoga, pad thai and i'm packed - my flight is 8AM in the morning so as i climb into bed to get a full night of sleep i check my inbox and get this email.... 

what follows is a series of delays and missed connections that turn my 30 hours of travel to Thailand into 96 hours of transit time.  i lost all my upgrades as i scrambled to get any seat on a flight going in a westerly direction, so yeah, getting there is not always fun.  

Bangkok Airways gets a special post since they were by far the nastiest of anyone i had to deal with.  the final leg of my journey was a 30 minute ferry ride and the usually calm crossing was so rough that bags stacked on one side of the ferry were flying across to the other side.  honestly, after the trip i'd had i wouldn't have been shocked if the boat went over.  when i got to the island and showered i crawled into bed and slept for 15 hours.

thank you to all the employees of ANA, United and Thai airlines who tried so hard to make the trip as easy as possible when everything is going wrong.  i usually buy travel insurance through World Nomads because it provides in country emergency medical care and evacuation back to the US but it also provides travel delay and interruption coverage.  i've never had to place a claim but i'll be sending in one now and see how they perform on the policy.