Doi Inthanon National Park: The Roof of Thailand

The highest point in Thailand, a gift fit for the King and Queen and waterfalls!

Those colorful, glossy brochures that fill hotel lobbies and street corners are enticing. They’re full of exciting excursions led by knowledgable tour guides. Great right? Yes, if your wallet is stacked and you don’t mind spending a little extra (a lot extra) for convenience.

Even when I have the cash, I never really like excursions. I don’t enjoy being told where to go, when to leave and how long to spend there. So when I read a few travelers’ blog posts about how to do Doi Inthanon National Park on a budget and on your own, I was sold. All I needed was a few willing friends.

After becoming chummy with the boys I asked if they’d be interested. Doi Inthanon is a 2 hour drive from our hostel and there are hikes to take, waterfalls to play in and temples to see. I explained to them that it would cost about 1500฿ a person to do this on a tour and it would probably be a get on, get off bus type thing. This wasn’t that type of group.

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They agreed and we decided to flag down a “taxi” driver and ask for a day trip fare to split between us, as the blogs had recommended. We ended up lucking out and met Danielle and Sara the morning we were planning on leaving. This is really how easy it is to make friends. Danielle was sitting there and I was talking to Joel and literally looked at her and said, “Hey, do you want to come to Doi Inthanon with us today?”  And BOOM! we had a little 7 person tour group.

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In front of the grounds at the Queen’s Chedis

Our taxi driver quoted us 2300฿ for 3 waterfalls (that were meticulously picked because we could swim in them), Phra Maha Dhatu Naphamethinidon and Naphaphonphumisiri Pagoda (the King and Queen’s Chedis) and a hike to the tallest spot in Thailand. Not a bad way to spend 330฿ each. Remember that’s like a 1200฿ savings. We also learned there is a 300฿ fee for the park that we’d have to pay on top of the tour price, so a big win! Plus, we thought we’d grab some Changs and bask in the sun all day, really making this a laid back trip.

Phra Maha Dhatu Naphamethinidon and Naphaphonphumisiri Pagoda

The King and Queen’s Chedis and surrounding gardens were insanely beautiful. Meticulous tiling that detail stories that I am sure I don’t understand. These gifts were dedicated to the King and Queen for their 60th birthday anniversaries in 1987. Between the Buddha’s on the inside to the flowers and shrubs and statues, and the rolling clouds that you were literally standing in, it was really breathtaking.

The Tallest Point in Thailand 

Located 2,565 meters above sea level, this point is not a hike. It’s not even really a walk. It’s a sign and a trick. We felt silly as we climbed the few stairs to the sign and then followed a wooden pathway through the jungle and then a few meters later popped out at the gift shop and bathrooms. They do a good job of making this feel like a stopping point, and saying you made it to the top of Thailand is cool, but seriously…

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Waterfalls and (not) Swimming 

You know what they say about best laid plans? Well, that’s true in Thailand too when you can’t speak the language and have no actual idea what your “guide” has in store. After discussing and showing the driver the waterfalls we wanted to see AND telling him we wanted to swim, he had other ideas. The first waterfall, Wachirathan Waterfall, was very, very cool but there was a balcony to take pictures and no swimming allowed. It was not on our list but it was cool and huge, and it had started to rain.

 

The second waterfall I believe was the Sirithan Waterfall. There were definitely pools to swim in and multiple falls. It was drizzling at this point and the grounds were slick. We still managed to climb around the rocks and feel the water. The taxi driver was now at our sides, he had very different ideas for getting this show moving than we had in mind. “No swim” was spoken often. He did not want us chillin, at all. He even told us the ones we wanted were dry. Dry? So water/rain chooses which falls to visit? Interesting.

The final stop, and last waterfall on our tour was the Mae Klang Waterfall. It was now pouring. We didn’t need to swim, water pooled around us. Drenched, and glad to be wearing bathing suits we ran around but didn’t stay at the last stop very long. Took a few pics, saw how grand it was and got back into the taxi.

To complete the journey we asked the driver to stop at 7-11 for Changs for the wet 2-hour ride home. He did. At one with gas, where they don’t sell booze. We’d lost control of our little personalized tour, but still happily rode home after a day of discovery and adventure. But no swimming.

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After a long, wet day of sightseeing 

Next stop, Elephant Nature Park. But that’s for another post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Respect to Travel Bloggers and Sisters

One of my favorite things to do these days is to read articles about how to travel on the cheap, how to get around an unknown city, etc. One of my favorites is Nomadic Matt. The wanderlust definitely has me in its grips. And more and more it amazes me that these travel bloggers actually keep up with their actual blogging. Believe it or not, my employed counterparts, it takes time.

Being unemployed gives me the freedom to think about what I am/will write. I’m focusing on funny or interesting things going on around me instead of the character count of a headline for an SEO project. I’m in tune with my desires both impractical and realistic, not in a state of constant panic that only office politics can bring on. I realize this period of my life will be fleeting, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy waking up not hating it. I mean, I haven’t even pushed a snooze button since January 9. Who wants to postpone this kind of freedom?

Maybe that’s the secret of real-life travel bloggers. They make the time to write, find Internet connections and download pictures all because they’re living the ultimate paid unemployment. As a newbie, I don’t understand the whole thing and I’d never claim to be a travel blogger, but for those getting paid to see the world, no strings attached, respect.

I am in fact, enjoying my visit
I am in fact, enjoying my visit

Speaking of travel, I’ve motored my way from Richmond to Southern Maryland. A 2-hour drive north landed me in my older sister’s driveway.

About Ms. Ryan

My Sister, Ryan
My Sister, Ryan

An obsessed alumnus of Hokie nation (Virginia Tech University for those that think hokie is something that breaks a lot), Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, employed by the United States Navy as a civilian systems engineer…she’s wicked smart. More stats:

  • 34-years-old
  • Owns a 3-bedroom house, 2 cars, 2 cats (one has diabetes)
  • Looks most like our mom
  • Shit = together
Celebrating 59, we donned hats at a Wine and Jazz Fest
Mom, celebrating 59, donned hats at a Wine and Jazz Fest

Even after this impressive list, she’s also single. I’m not sure there’s many unmarried, non-PTSD man-folk around the Solomon’s Island area. Military men, although hot (hello Fleet Week!) tend to be risky endeavors. During a visit years ago, we ended up at a karaoke night and she met this guy, let’s call him Jim. Jim and her had some good times, but like all good things, they must come to a bitter, torrid end and alas, I keep my hooking up skills to myself now.

EXCEPT, honorable mention, in Las Vegas in May 2013, celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday, the three of us ladies, plus Mara and Amanda met these two, nice looking ex-footballers in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Since our flights were a day before Ryan’s, we told her to exchange numbers with one of them (the cuter one, I’ll admit). Fast-forward to story time and apparently he wines and dines her, gives her some chips to gamble with and she leaves her fair suitor high and dry in the city of sin. For Ryan, what happens in Vegas will follow you to your Irish-Catholic grave.

Amanda, Mara, Ryan and I do Vegas
Amanda, Mara, Ryan and I do Vegas

The truth is we are as different as different can be. I am excitable and flighty, Ryan is grounded and reasonable. I rather exercise and she chooses to eat clean. She loves numbers and I love words. Until adulthood, our differences tore us apart. We didn’t agree on anything, and when we were children she didn’t let me play with her or her friends. Having more than 5 years between us is a big gap when you’re young.

Luckily, times have changed and we are closer than ever. We’ve even taken a 2-week vacation to Ireland in 2012, with minimal fighting! We rented a car in Dublin and drove our little “lipstick car” around the island. Literally. Belfast, Galway, Killarney, Kilkenny, Cork, Wicklow… I’m missing some. But I’m told by some Irish friends I’ve seen more of Ireland than they have.

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

And I guess now I’m trying to see parts of my own country. Ryan supports it although she may not always understand my choices. She doesn’t have to, I’m just glad she’s got my back, and when I’m passing through, a spare room.

Day 18 – The After Party

Truth
Truth

I’m cranky. I’m getting sick. I’m complaining. I’m tired of dealing with really stupid people. Here is a little bit of what I’m talking about:

  • Posted furniture on Craigslist, $60 for bar set with stools, no I’m not selling it to you for $20, even if you do follow that offer up by saying, not trying to lowball you. Yes, yes you are. Go away.
  • Guy wants my TV. Arrange time and date for pick up. Waiting for him to call. Waiting. Waiting. See he’s emailing me, email back 15 minutes later. He can’t get it anymore. He didn’t have my number. My number is my contact information in the posting he originally contacted. Stupid. Plain stupid.
  • The waitress who will be receiving all tips from the people at the party says she’s really hangover and can’t get her shit together. You carry beer from a bar to a patron and collect money. What “shit” are you trying to handle? (Also, as a person who has been a hostess, waitress and bartender, complaining to people giving you money to make them happy is probably the worst thing you can do.) Job fail.

Moving on… Yes, there are a lot of frustrating things about today. But the weekend was great, and I just keep thinking about it. So many friends came out, even in the cold, even in the snow, even if it wasn’t in their neighborhood. That meant the world to me, because no one owes me anything. And I’m sure those that missed it will be eternally regretful.

Last St. Elmo's Fire meet up, missing Maq
Last St. Elmo’s Fire meet up, missing Maq

It was a giant success and I couldn’t have done it without Mara. She also kicked in a surprise and had people fill out well-wishing cards. I read them last night. I am really touched by the words, advice and support that filled those cards. I am sure I will read and re-read them when I feel down, lonely or nervous about my decision to leave NY and start over again.

Another really amazing and heartfelt moment from the weekend came in the form of a wedding party invitation. In life, I imagine we are only lucky enough to have a handful of BEST FRIENDS. People who stick by us through thick and thin, people who would break or bail us out of jail. One of those people is my friend Sean. Sean’s one of the strongest and self-sufficient people I’ve ever met and when he asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

There’s nothing more I’d want to give someone than support and encouragement on one of the biggest days of their lives. We have a special friendship, and when he is happy, I am happy, even if the Men’s Warehouse will undoubtedly be confused when I show up for my fitting. Are there any ladies out there who have been a groomsman? I’d really like to know how you participated, what you wore, etc.

Sean and Cheesi do Manhattan
Sean and Chessi do Manhattan

I want to send a couple “shout outs” to some more special people in my life. Panda, Sauer, CJ, Maq, Andrea, Rob and Maria. It’s not about fitting people into the blog; it’s about those people fitting me into their lives. I wouldn’t change anything about them, except that I could pack them in a suitcase and we could all move together. Every day their love, creativity, humor and advice will be missed.

Last update: I thought the Austin agency was ruled out because I hadn’t heard from them. However, while writing this post, they emailed me that I am still in the running and I should hear next steps from them by Wednesday. It’s throwing a wrench in my “plan,” but an invited wrench indeed. Check in for updates….

Austin?
Austin?

Day 16 – Celebrating Saturday

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Westport 2012: The induction of Celebrate Saturday

You know that song Closing Time by Semisonic? I think it was the tear-jerker they played during the season finale of Seinfeld. [Aging myself.] Well, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. The lyrics are so poignant at this time in my life, especially today. Tonight is my going away party. Mara took the lead in planning it and finding the location. A private room at a bar called, Swift. (If it sucks, this is all on you, M.) So, in the song, when they sing “I hope you have found a friend,” I have. I have found many dear friends in this great city. And tonight, when they come out of the woodwork and we talk about days gone by, old jobs, bad bosses, good memories, catty fights of the past and our upcoming plans, I will know Semisonic is right, every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.

While I have 6 days left before I am considered illegally squatting, that time will be spent continuing to purge, painting walls back to white, crossing t’s and dotting i’s–not holding onto the past. I’m looking forward to the future. I’m not chasing a dream, I’m living one. And every day I am grateful for the people who have given me the courage to not know what’s next. Having a supportive network made up of friends and family is the difference between success and failure. And I attribute every gain in my life to them.

It’s 2, I should probably do something with the day other than wallow in nostalgia. With friends coming in from my hometown, maybe washing some dishes and vacuuming is in order. I sold my couch today, so that’s something. Oh, and I also exchanged my purchase from yesterday for a smaller size, thank you very much! However, I guess I forgot people have eyes because I left the house looking like something out of The Walking Dead. I’m just excited for tonight and I want it here already! I want to celebrate Saturday. And for the record, I know who I want to take me home.

Day 7 – With a Little Help From My Friends

Best friends minus that random bride lady
Best friends minus that random bride lady

I can’t help but to notice that there are so many awesome songs about friendship. From the Beatles to Queen and then the crew from Saved by the Bell had their hit single, Friends Forever. Friendship is just everywhere and it’s awesome.

I happen to have a group of friends that makes the Friends cast look lame. We do a lot of the same things, but except coffee it’s alcohol and except trips to Las Vegas and London it’s a free beach house near the cape (thanks mom and dad!).

I am one lucky lady to know a group like this. We actually have a name given to us by a creative director at our old agency, St. Elmo’s Fire. Yes, it’s also the name of an 80s movie where for some reason this group of 20-somethings can’t get their shit together… ah, now I get it.

Anyways, since I met this group in 2011, we’ve done everything together. And I mean some of us have really done everything (wink, wink). We also fight, and with 4 copywriters and 3 art directors, and occasionally an account guy known as Snowflake, there is never a lack of opinion or personality. Have you ever been out-witted by a sharp-tongued copywriter, that shit stings. One such person is my dear, dear friend, Mara.

This girl is a firecracker. I’ve never met anyone like her. If I were into “that”, I’d totally buy her dinner more often. She’s a marathon runner, she’ll go to the gym in -4 degree weather, she’s working on a book, she’s the only writer at the #15 fastest growing agency, she’s just fucking rad. But above all, she’s a sick friend. She is the type that will bail you out of jail, come to your apartment which is wicked far from the subway just to help you pick out a date outfit and take time out of her busy life to help you get through [another] break up. I’m also seeing her in about 45 minutes because she’s letting me use her office to take a video interview. (Remember that shitty internet connection?)

The Penrose has great lighting
The Penrose has great lighting

I have another friend I couldn’t get through living in NYC without. Rocks. I mentioned him once before. Fun Fact about Rocks, he turns 31 tomorrow. Last night we went out to a bar we like, The Penrose. They have a killer scotch and whisky collection, just ask my hangover.

Rewind…I met Rocks through a friend of a friend. After DJ left me without a place to live in 2011, I basically begged to live in his 3-bedroom apartment in Astoria. He lived with a male comedian who wasn’t around much and as soon as he said yes he became my new best friend.

I moved in April 2011. He watched me struggle through the breakup, helped me find my pain in the bottom of bottles, helped me back up again when I thought I could stand on my own but couldn’t. This stranger, who owed me nothing, was my brother. Still is.

Rocks is also unlucky in love. He’s either too sweet or too NYC. What does that mean? When he’s into a girl he’s always there for her, nicest guy in the world and some girls can take that for granted. When he’s playing the field, he’s a total douche. I’ve never been on the receiving end of one of his lines, but they work. I’ve seen it. One time I was headed to the kitchen for a midnight glass of water. The lights were off, and coincidentally he was coming in. But before he entered, a woozy-looking Russian girl stopped dead in her tracks. She starred at me. She then said, “Are you a ghost?” I’m not kidding. That happened and those are the types of girls he was “becoming friendly with.”

But, Rocks isn’t really that guy. He’s 31 now. He’s mature and successful and I’m glad we are besties. Rocks is also the reason I met N. But that story is for another day.