Tag Archives: traveling

Night with the Ladies

I have to start this post by pointing out that while traveling it’s hard to find an occasion to really dress up for.  Since being on this particular journey I can only think of a few times that I’d made any real effort in dressing up or even in trying to look good.  Putting on makeup seems ridiculous to me as the heat would just melt it off and even shaving legs or plucking eyebrows sometimes goes longer than needed because there isn’t anyone to impress.  The only times I did make an effort on Koh Tao (i.e. put on some earings or wore a clean top with my jean shorts) was when I went to Fight Nights because it was the only time I ever went out at night on Koh Tao (pre Anna visiting…).

This all changed the night Anna and I went to the Lady Boy Cabaret on the Koh Tao walking street however… It wasn’t just me but Anna as well… For some reason we felt compelled to make an effort to look good at the show knowing full well that just about every (and I mean EVERY) one of Lady Boys in the cabaret show would look a million times better than us!!  And the kicker??  Yes, they are all MEN!!!

Lady boys in Thailand do not carry the stigma as they do in other parts of the world.  It is perfectly accepted by the society that a man would rather be and live his life as a woman.  Of course, while it’s accepted socially there are apparently a few kinks in other ways as I’d recently been told about (lady boys can’t hold certain jobs and in general have difficulty getting hired in “normal” positions and have to be registered as male making it impossible for them to leave the country since their ID says “male” yet they show up as a female, etc).  But in general they at least seem to be more accepted by people of this country and not as people to shame.  Yet another lesson to learn from Thailand!  Alas, baby steps…

Going to the Cabaret was another on my list of things to do when Anna arrived so after our kayak to Koh Nangyuan, several pre-party beers, plucking eyebrows and fussing over the best dress to wear we headed out to the walking street for some Lady Boy entertainment.  Neither of us wore any makeup though because again it’s just too hot, even at night in my opinion, to bother!

From previous walks past the cabaret bar I’d noticed the place was always packed so I rushed us out of the house 40 minutes early to make sure we got a seat.  Turned out we were the first to arrive (go figure) so we had the pick of the place and were seated by one of the staff members (who funnily enough is an awesome Muay Thai fighter!!) in the second row center stage.  The first row was reserved apparently… Drinks were ordered and for the first 20 to 30 minutes it seemed that perhaps I had been a bit too hasty in shuffling us there so early as the crowd really wasn’t gaining in numbers.  However by the time the show was due to begin (about 10:30) the place was absolutely packed!  And the people who had reserved the front row didn’t show, so the staff moved all of us from the second row onto the first!!  Yay!!!

I tell you what, those ladies put on such a fun show and looked amazing doing it!!  They really do put most real women to shame in their beauty and though I know that some are surgically helped along, they still are absolutely stunning!  In fact, there was one Lady who if put next to Ariana Grande, I would seriously have a VERY tough time figuring out which was the real Ariana!!  And I swear that at least two of them could seriously be Victoria Secret models!!  The show was fun and energetic with the crowd getting into each song, singing along, clapping and hootin’ and hollerin’!  The lead ladies in each number were spot on in their performances (especially the “Christina Aguilera” lady who not only “sang” perfectly but had the attitude and moves to match) and it was impressive to watch them dancing their hearts out in 6 inch stiletto heels!!

The show consisted of about a dozen or so songs being “sung” (lip-syncing) by a lead Lady with her accompanying dancers but at one point a brave young man was plucked from the audience, sat on a chair, blindfolded and had some naughty acts “performed” on him.  That act REALLY riled up the audience with laughter and cheers!  It was seriously a great show and honestly better than the show I’d seen in Key West during my time there.

When the show was over the Ladies offered the crowd to take pictures with them for 100 baht a pop (a girl’s gotta make a living!!) so of course Anna and I had to get ours taken with one.  This show is definitely one I would absolutely recommend to attend!  Admission to the show is free but they require one drink purchase per person which is quite a bit more pricey than other places, but then again their pour is nice as well.  I can’t tell you how long the show went, but when we left it was energizing enough that Anna and I ended up staying out till 3am sipping “Pink Ladies” poolside at one of the pool bars called ‘The Office Bar’ (the only one open at that hour in honesty!) not far along the walking path from the club.  Ah, such fun nights!!

On to Through the Looking Glass

Back to Thailand

 

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Things to Love about Thailand

I’ve been traveling in Thailand now for over 5 months now, so I thought perhaps now is the best time to break out with a few things I love or at least find the most interesting about Thailand:)

It will be a working list and isn’t in any particular order with the exception of the first one.  🙂

#1: NO SHOES!!!
I absolutely adore how before entering any building, home or place of work you must first remove your shoes!  This goes for just about every place, with the exception of some grocery stores (though no one would squawk if you didn’t have your shoes on) and with some restaurants as well.  But for the most part (including in the vet clinic where I volunteered) you have to kick off your shoes before entering.  I will admit sometimes it’s a pain to do so (if you are wearing anything other than flip  flops) but otherwise, the no shoe rule is my favorite cultural behavior and one that I will be using wherever I end up for good:) I love, love, LOVE it!!

No Shoes
No Shoes

#2: Nature
The diversity of the landscapes here are extraordinary!  From the beaches to jungle to islands, mountains, rivers and lakes, Thailand seems to have just about every kind of terrain one would want to find.

#3: House Geckos
I just adore these creatures!  They are simply a much larger version of regular geckos and they are quite beneficial to have in the home since they take care of the majority of other insects in the home (including spiders, yay!!).  They also make the cutest and most interesting sound.  They start off with a quick series of chitters, then make a series of staccato sounds in repetition.  When I first heard their sound I thought I was crazy because it sounded like they were saying “F you” in slow repetition.  However, I’ve come across many other travelers and very-well-spoken-in-English-locals who have also pointed this out, so I guess I wasn’t as crazy as I thought, LOL!

#4: Animals
I know I just wrote about the geckos, and they technically would qualify in the animal section as well, but I just love those little buggers so much that they got their own section.  However, I do also adore the large variety of other kinds of animals here in Thailand.  From elephants, street dogs and cats, variety of monkeys, flying squirrels, regular squirrels, lizards, birds, the diversity is so rich!  You just never know what you are going to find!  The sea life is also beautifully diverse and lush!  From corals to sting rays, sharks, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, and a huge variety of fish, it’s amazingly impressive!

#5: Kind & Honest People
The people are generous and kind, patient and welcoming.  I have yet to run into a rude local here and though I’ve heard from other fellow travelers that it all depends on where you go, in my opinion and experience the people have been nothing but kind.  In addition to the generous and kind nature of the people here, they are also very honest.  In particular when it comes to money.  I’ve been other places where I’ve handed over too much money (from being tired or just not thinking the correct exchange rate) and they’ve gone on their way with the extra money in hand.  Here, there have been several occasions where I’ve handed over too much and they immediately return whatever over I’ve paid, even if it’s just a single baht!  I’ve gotten so comfortable with their honesty that there have also been several times when my mind wasn’t working properly to understand how much I owed in Thai that I’ve simply held a bunch of bills and let them pick what they needed.  I love that kind of honesty as it makes one feel more comfortable in their surroundings!!  Now, that’s not to say some people won’t try to overcharge you for something (cab ride, etc) but if you ask upfront what something will cost, they stick by it.

#6: No sleazy men
Traveling in Latin American countries, one thing I had to get used to that also really annoyed me at times, but just had to learn to ignore, was the cat calls, whistles, stares and hissing sounds (they literally sounded like snakes to be honest) men would constantly make toward any female as you walked by.  Here, no such behavior exists!  The men are much more respectful in that way and even to the point where I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t getting any looks from locals, and it simply is because their culture, unlike others, is to not display emotions of affection in any way in public.  Hence, no cat calls, uncomfortable stares or hissing sounds!

#7: Packaging with plastic bags
This one I personally struggle with from the environmental perspective and really wish they would cut back on their use of plastic bags, but I do also find it interesting and entertaining how they package to-go food or drink items.  Coffee, sodas, rice, soups, and more are packaged in a plastic bag tied off with a rubber band for take away.  Other items like rice and pad thai are put in styrofoam containers, so it’s one evil for the environment versus the other… While I can understand the simplicity and ease of using plastic bags, I wish in general they would cut back because they insist in using a ton of bags for very few items.  I’m always refusing bags (as I generally bring my own or just don’t need one) but you really have to be on the ball to say you don’t want a bag as they are very quick to snatch one out.  The straws also drive me nuts (though technically from the hygienic perspective it’s better) as they will give you one for each can or bottle purchased (including for beers) so if I walked in and bought 2 bottles of water and a soda they would put in 3 straws!

#8: Built to last
Another thing that really impresses me about Thailand is the construction of their homes and buildings.  Yes, there are several homes that are made entirely from bamboo and other wood (though bamboo is a very highly resilient wood to begin with!) but many homes, stores and general buildings are built to a very high quality standard and are built to last!  It’s amazing watching them construct a home or other building because their scaffolding is simply rickety looking pieces of wood that you wouldn’t think would hold people walking or working around them, yet the finished product is brick and concrete with tile throughout.

#9: Muay Thai
Whether it’s enjoying an evening out watching fights or joining in training yourself, Muay Thai is entertaining, engaging and a real real-kicker!  Granted not all fights are created equal as some are much more entertaining or gruesome than others, but all the fighters have a real sportsmanship about them that isn’t as easily found in countless other sports.  What I love the most is the fights where it’s evident that the competitors are friends.  They encourage each other between fighting rounds but when the bell goes off, all bets are off and “may the best fighter win” kicks in.  Another thing I love about Muay Thai is the sense of tradition and culture.  The fighters respect the ring, the judges, their opponent and their God.  The more I train in Muay Thai, the more I understand the fights as I watch and questions I had before while watching fights are now answered because of my own training.  I won’t go into that here, but will in a future post for sure!

To be continued…

Back to Thailand

Heidelberg

At this point in my trip, I unfortunately caught the European crud:(  Since traveling from Salzburg, everyone around me seemed to be hacking and coughing and sneezing and sniffling and well, it finally caught up with me.  I wasn’t feeling well at all, but had to power through anyway.  The afternoon I got into Heidelberg I first checked into my hostel (Steffi’s Hostel located just a few minutes walk from the train station) then immediately went back to the train station to check out a store I had spotted that seemed to be a mini-mart.  I stocked up on throat lozenges, teas, vitamin C, apple cider vinegar and tissues to care finally get myself taken care of a bit.  I had dinner at the Chinese restaurant located conveniently downstairs and had soup with tons of sriracha in it, just to help sweat out those germs;)

Heidelberg is a huge University town.  Just about everyone I came across and chatted with was somehow involved in the University, whether studying or working.  It’s a lovely little place with a great young energy and I’m just bummed that I felt like such crap the entire time I was there, but I’m thankful that I was able to get better while there.  In my mind it will always be that quaint little town where I got to rest a bit:)

The next day I still felt like run-over dog but thought “I’m here, I better do something!!”.  So I went for a walk to see the Heidelberg castle:)  I even ended up taking a tour of the castle once there, but honestly don’t remember much of it since my brain was mush from not feeling well:(

One bit that I do recall from the tour however was of the story of Perkeo.  Perkeo was a short, red-headed Italian who  didn’t speak German, yet lived at the castle as the keeper of the wine!  Seriously, this barrel of wine in the basement of the castle is absolutely HUGE!!  According to Wikipedia it can hold over 57,000 gallons of wine!!  Anyway, as the keeper of the wine (and being Italian of course) Perkeo was quite fond of wine and drank quite a bit of it.  Because he didn’t speak German and the Germans didn’t speak any Italian, when he was offered wine he would simply say “Perche No?”, which means “why not?” In Italian.  Perche no… perkeo… see the similarity??  He was the keeper for some time and as the humorous yet untrue story goes, one time someone went to play a trick on him.  They offered him some wine (to which he said “perche no?”) but instead gave him a glass of water.  Perkeo took a sip and fell dead in that moment;)  Too funny!

Another cute story revolved around the King and his wife.  King Frederick V was quite the romantic!  In the archway that leads to the entrance of the castle there are lovely etchings of nature and animals sculpted into it.  It is said that each animal is a symbol of love to his wife.  Once it was constructed he simply told her to search the gardens of the arc to find little mementos of his love for her…  Awww!!

Lovers Arc
Lovers Arc

After the castle tour I wandered the gardens, which after having been to Versailles definitely seemed to lack;)  At this point my body and mind were getting severely tired from being ill and just couldn’t do much more.  I headed back through town to the hostel and passed out.

The next day I was feeling quite a bit better and decided to head to the zoo!  I took the bus there and arrived just as it was opening.  I spent the day wandering back and forth from animal enclosure to animal enclosure just taking in all the critters.  It isn’t a huge zoo by any means, but they do have a decent variety of animals and because it was so small, it made it easy to get around to each of the feeding shows .  The sea lion feeding was like many of the sea lion feedings in other zoos where they tell you about the critters and have them do a variety of tricks for the fish.  This one was a bit unique for me however as the feeding was all in German, so I hadn’t a clue about what was being said.  It was still quite entertaining however:)

Some things I noticed about this zoo that was different from others I had been to was first the amount of babies they had.  Baby sea lions, baby camels, baby porcupines, baby monkeys, babies everywhere!  Second, even though they were a small zoo there were staff members everywhere all throughout the day working in one way or another; cleaning, preparing food, moving the babies from the nurseries to the adult pens for some acclimation time, etc.  Generally I never notice zoo staff around, but at this one they were very present, which I found nice!  Finally, of all the zoos I’ve been to, never before had I seen a feeding for the tigers and lions…

Oh my goodness… I can’t describe how amazing it was to see the tigers literally going from “look at that beautiful/cute tiger” to “never in a million years would I ever want to tangle with one of them!!!”.  The wild and the instincts came out in a flash the second the food arrived.  Claws scraped the enclosure bars trying to get a quicker grip on the meat about to be fed to them.  It was just amazing to see such a wild nature so close!

The lions were much more relaxed about the feeding.  It was a group of lionesses and it was easy to see which was the Alpha female.  She got her meat first (quite patiently compared to the tigers) and headed to her eating spot as the others then practically lined up to get theirs.  The order and calm in their enclosure versus the “fear for your life” energy from the tigers enclosure was incredible!  I would go back just to view the feeding again.

After the zoo I headed to the hostel once again and spent the evening plotting how to get to and where to stay in Füssen, Germany.  The “Fairy Tale” castle of “Mad” King Ludwig II, located in South Germany in a little town called Hohenschwangau was a must see on my list.  Thankfully all my plots to get there worked out and after several relaxing days of actually taking care of myself in Heidelberg I was ready to set out once again.

On to Füssen

Back to Europe 

Packing Tips

Ok, so I figure I should spend a little time going through what I consider to be the essentials on what to pack when traveling.  Now, regardless of whether you are traveling with a backpack or with luggage, I would still suggest all of the below to be included.  Between the wisdom and suggestions of my mom on what to be sure to include and my own experiences, so far I have not needed to purchase anything extra to survive my travels thus far:)  So below is a running list of suggestions on what to pack for your travels:

  • Shorts and T-shirts
  • Nice casual outfit for evenings out (aka dressin’ to impressin’!!)
  • Sweater (yes, sweater) and long pants
  • Underwear and bras of course (men, you can skip the bras unless you are into some crazy kinky stuff I don’t know about and frankly don’t want to know about;))
  • Shoe variety (I brought 2 sets of flip-flops and a pair of keens which have been invaluable throughout the trip!!  They serve as my hiking/general exercise “boots” and even my riding “boots”!  And they aren’t that bulky so they don’t take an excessive amount of space up in my bag.)
  • Poncho (thanks mom!!)
  • Bathing suits (more than one as it takes 2-3 days for anything to dry around here and slipping into a wet and cold bathing suit isn’t all that great!!)
  • Compact caboodle to put in all toiletries (I found a fabric caboodle that came with many storage areas and even little travel bottles that I filled with hydrogen peroxide, shampoo, lotion and tea tree oil bug spray.  Mind you this was in my backpack and not in my carry-on so there were no airport security issues)
  • Compact sleep travel kit (as mentioned before I happened to purchase mine on the flight over and it’s come in handy many times!!  Pack included blanket, air pillow, eye mask and ear plugs)
  • Towel (not all hostels provide you with a towel, and even if they do, sometimes it’s just a better idea to use your own!! Also, I have a second towel that my sister gave to me a while back.  I believe it is from Japan but it is very small yet acts like one of those sham wow towels while actually still having the feel of a towel)
  • BUG SPRAY!!!!!  (ok, now I really didn’t have any need for bug spray until I reached the Osa Peninsula, but in general this is a good idea!!)
  • Water bottle (my mom and I found this great water bottle called vapur: it’s a eco-friendly reusable plastic water bottle that is also BPA-free and the best thing about it is that when it’s empty, it’s as flat as a few sheets of paper, but when filled it simply expands and allows up to, if memory serves right, a half a liter of water!  It also comes with a carabiner for easy clipping to your body or pack!)
  • Hands-free headlight (I got one with three modes of lighting and it has come in great handy!!  Whether used for a night tour, light to get home after late-night fiestas, during blackouts that actually occur more often than not or simply in my own home when the 3 of the 4 light bulbs suddenly decide to burn out all within the same hour!)
  • Plastic bags (these are really essential too!!  They are great for stuffing still wet clothing into or dirty clothes into to separate them from the rest of the dry and clean clothes while traveling from one place to the next)
  • First Aid Kit (I bought one from Bass Pro Shop that is quite compact and has a lot of handy stuff including a syringe and gloves.  I’ve added to it extra bandaids, Neosporen and tea tree oil for bug bites)

September 17th, 2011

Dropped off at the airport around 3am, my journey was about to begin.  I hadn’t slept entirely well the night before due to many factors really- nerves, had I packed enough?, ideas of what may lay ahead, but most of all fear that I wouldn’t be allowed in the Country to begin with…

Let me explain: all the online posts I had read pertaining to traveling to Costa Rica stated that you had to have proof of leaving the Country prior to entering.  In other words a bus ticket or a return plane ticket showing that you were going to be leaving within 90 days of arrival.  I had no such proof.  I had only purchased a one-way ticket there.

What I had later learned is that many airlines- Spirit, Air Mexico, etc will not allow you to purchase a one-way ticket online.  Or if they do, once you arrive at the airport you get slapped with the happy news that you have to pony up some more money for a return ticket… kinda sneaky if you ask me, but the good news or best advice rather if you find yourself in that scenario is to simply buy a refundable ticket and cancel it after printing your proof of a return flight.

One example of the kind of trouble one may run into without a return ticket from CR was of a couple who flew in to Miami (as part of the journey to CR) then were denied bording access to the plane to CR because they didn’t have a return flight!  They ended up having to get back to the ticket sales desk, only to find one airline open, purchase a ticket, haul back through security and get on the plane in the nick of time!

Though I was nervous about not having a return flight, I said to myself that if I wasn’t meant to go to Costa Rica, then I would have complications getting in.  If not, well then that was just one more sign that I was supposed to go.

The flight was quite pleasant as I slept for most of the time.  I traveled on US Air and made one of the best last minute travel purchases while on a flight: a sleep pack that included a little blanket, air pillow, eye mask and ear plugs all condensed in the size of… well frankly this little 10″ netbook I’m currently working on:)  It has come in handy time and time again!

My most nerve-wracking moment was when I arrived at the San Jose airport (which btw folks isn’t actually located in San Jose, but rather Alajuela- but I will speak more about that later).  Would I get past Immegration with only a one-way ticket???  Indeed I did:)

On to San Jose

Back to Costa Rica