Snorkeling at Phi Phi Islands in Thailand

Mid-way through my trip to Thailand, I accompanied my friend Heather on a scuba diving trip to Phi Phi Islands. She organized the trip in advance, and I was able to tag along as a snorkeler for an extra $25!

We were staying at the Pimalai resort in Krabi, Thailand, and Scubalanta had a location within the resort… yes, the resort was that big!! We hopped in a truck that took us to a small fisherman’s boat, along with a few other people who were going scuba diving/snorkeling.

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10 minutes later, and we all climbed into a bigger boat, taking a 1.5 hour boat ride to Phi Phi Islands. During the ride, we had breakfast, and we were given medicine for sea sickness (much needed!). The guides came over to each person explaining the different fish near the islands, including the route around the island we would swim around.

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After arriving at the islands, we put on our gear, and jumped in! Divers went first, then snorkelers. The waters were incredibly blue and clear, and the weather was the perfect temperature for snorkeling!

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Nerd-alert, pre-jumping into the water!

We went snorkeling for 45 minutes, then came back to the boat to relax and eat lunch. After a little bit, we went out for a second time, and we were able to see a shark at the other island we were at! However, my favorite part was all of the starfish – there were so many, and they were all just chillin out at the bottom of the ocean.

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There was an option to go for a 3rd dive, but the overall vote was to head back – we were all tired and ready to go home! The entire day trip, from pick up to drop off, was 8-9 hours. The weather was perfect, and Scubalanta was so accommodating! The staff was great, and they were extremely helpful – I highly recommend booking a tour through them if you are ever traveling in Thailand!

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Me and heather, pre-dive/snorkel

Also – there is a photographer that dives with everyone, and you have the option to buy pictures at the end of the trip!  The photographer will go through the images and show them to you before you make a decision to buy. You can buy 1,2, or 3 pictures at a set price… or, you can buy ALL pictures, including special deep-dive shots from the photographer & islands.

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I’ve been snorkeling in Belize before, and while Phi Phi Islands were beautiful, I think Belize was more amazing (I swam with sharks there, so a little more adventurous!). With that being said, the weather was perfect, staff great, and the dive/snorkel experience amazing. Next time: Getting Dive-Certified & coming back to Thailand 😉

Where is your favorite place to snorkel/dive? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experience(s)!

Riding Elephants in Thailand

3 years ago, I created a bucket list. And on that bucket list, I wrote “Ride on an elephant in Thailand.” I also cut a picture out of a magazine and stuck it to my wall as a constant reminder that I would make it happen – and guess what. It. Actually. Happened! I had no idea HOW it would happen, but the universe works in funny ways.

Less than 1 year ago, I traveled to NYC for a Yoga workshop & met my now- very good friend Heather, and we connected through instagram. We met up in March for my half marathon in NYC, and she invited me to Thailand for a yoga retreat in September. 5 months later, we were on our way – she researched & planned an elephant trek during our week in Thailand, and is literally the reason why my dream has manifested… I am forever grateful for her!!

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Upon landing in Thailand, we dropped our bags off at the airport with the staff from Pimalai Resort (where the yoga retreat was being held), and we hailed a cab to grab some food before being picked up for the elephant trek.

First Stop: a small town called Ao Nang for some really, really, REALLY amazing green curry from Ton Ma Yom. Spicy, sweet, perfect.

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We headed off to the town to explore a little bit – beautiful blue skies on a very hot day, and washing machines on the street. Yes, washing machines. Apparently its a thing in Thailand to do your laundry on the streets…

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Around 2 pm, we were picked up by Your Krabi for an Elephant Trekking & Waterfall Tour (Total Cost = 900 Baht, or $25 US!). There was a total of 6 of us – 2 friends from Turkey on holiday from school, and a couple from the UK who quit their jobs to travel for a while. 45 minutes later, and we arrived at the foot of Phanom Bencha mountain, ready to hang with some Elephants 🙂

My friend & I climbed a set of stairs into a tree house, which was necessary since the elephants were so big! We removed our flip flops so they wouldn’t fall off, and then mounted our elephant. There was a 2-seater chair on top of the elephant, which had several blankets layered underneath so nothing was digging into his skin.

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Unfortunately, it started to rain, so we were cold, wet, and in dire need of some hot chocolate. However, the actual trek was so, so amazingly beautiful, which completely made up for the weather! Our elephant was the oldest of the bunch – over 60 years old – and he liked to stop and eat every 3 minutes. He only ate 1 type of plant, so we had to stop every time he saw it… even if it was really high up. When the food was really high up, our elephant would get up on his hind legs, and we had to realllly hang on to our seat so we wouldn’t fall off!

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The trek lasted less than an hour, and we were guided through a river with mini waterfalls.. absolutely beautiful! Since it was raining, I didn’t get many shots while riding the elephant… buuuuut, many were taken of the baby elephant later on!

After the adult elephant ride, we fed them some bananas and sent them on their way. Next up: bathing a baby elephant. First, our 6 year old baby elephant came out and performed a few tricks for us – playing the harmonica, basketball, and even putting a hat on our heads… he was adorable!

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Just look at his little fuzzy head of hair!!!

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Elephant Kisses

Then came the fun part… actually getting in the water with the baby elephant! We were given brushes to brush the elephant, and he loved it! Elephants make this weird purring noise, and it is totally adorable!

 

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The baby elephant was so playful, and he loved being in the water! After a little bit, he sunk lower in the water and let me climb on his back, then kept trying to reach his trunk up to touch me!

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An elephant’s skin is pretty rough/course, and they have these wiry-feeling hairs on the top of their heads, about 1-2″ apart from each other. I couldn’t stop petting the baby elephants head, it felt so weird!

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When everyone was done playing in the water with the elephant, we rinsed off & had some fruit to eat before heading back. My Krabi tours was amazing and very accommodating for everyone on the tour – and for $25, you got a lot! Pickup and drop off, a snack, water, 45 minute trek on an elephant, and playing with a baby elephant for another 45 mins.

**Please note – a lot of people are against riding elephants in Thailand, for various valid reasons. My friend researched the company, and My Krabi is one of the very few places that actually treats their elephants really well. A lot of elephants will have purple marks all over them from being hit with a hook, and the ones we rode & played with were mark-free. They were gentle, calm, and seemed very happy! There were a few places along the side of the road in Thailand that showcased riding elephants, and they looked really run down and unhealthy… so make sure to look into the company before riding elephants, because there are a lot of touristy places that don’t treat the animals very well. There are also alternatives to riding elephants, so it just depends on your own beliefs on what you prefer to do.

Overall, I would do this again in a heartbeat! It was a highlight of my time in Thailand, and I my only regret is not being able to stay longer than a week.

Has anyone ever ridden an elephant or wanted to do it? What was your experience? And if you’ve been to Thailand, what was your favorite excursion/part of the country?

Oyster Podcast: Travel

Back in the fall, I attended a local speed networking event for Entrepreneurs. While there, I met Nate, founder of Oyster World Radio & Travel Education. Oyster world Radio is an awesome podcast that interviews travelers about their experiences – whether it be an amazing adventure or someone who quit their job to travel, Oyster has found a fun way to teach culture around the globe.

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While chatting, Nate asked me to be on his show to talk about my solo travels around the world. We recorded a podcast over the phone last year, and it finally launched this week! It turned out amazing – I talked about my trips, fears, and how traveling has changed me.

If you are at all on the fence about traveling, just getting into it, or already an avid traveler, this podcast is perfect to put on while driving to work or hanging out around the house (I listen to it while getting ready in the morning or driving to work!). It gives you a look into the minds & decision-making of people who travel – it’s really, really awesome… You will want to drop everything and plan a trip now!

You can find it on iTunes or Stitcher! If you listen, let me know what you think!

Traveling Yogi: Oktoberfest Part 1

Hello!

One of the main reasons for going to Europe was not just to eat endless amounts of chocolate in Switzerland, but also to attend Oktoberfest. I have heard so many amazing things from friends who have gone, so I just had to experience it for myself! Below is a recap of my first Day at Oktoberfest – I will write about my second day in another post, there is just too much to write about!

Friday, September 18 – Day 1 Munich:
6 am: Walk to Train station from Hostel
7 am: Catch train from Interlaken to Munich

After waking up at the crack of dawn, the hostel employees were still up drinking.. They tried to convince me to stay another night, or at least for a drink (at 6 am)… I politely declined, as I had a train to catch! So, I was given a roadie and sent on my way. There were 2 connections on the trains, and I was lucky enough to find a couple headed to Munich – we worked together to figure out what trains to get on, although we were still running to catch our connections!

After getting on the final train in Zurich, my train car was smoking because the heater was broken. I initially had planned to get some sleep and read a bit, but I couldn’t stand the smell. So, I decided to switch cars… and I am so glad I did! I ended up on the “party” train and met some awesome new friends. I can’t believe I even tried to be a hermit and sleep the entire way… There was always some sort of excitement to get caught up in!

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The Swiss are very, very friendly people. As soon as I sat down, I was given a beer and food. Most didn’t speak English too well, but luckily there was someone from Chicago on the train. Sometimes it is just nice to be able to speak to someone that can understand you!

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From 10-1:30 pm, I drank, ate, and made new friends. After arriving at the Munich train station, I walked across the street to my hostel and checked in. I got settled into my room full of bunk beds, and headed out to find my outfit for Oktoberfest! After wandering around Munich and going into a few shops, I finally found my Lederhosen outfit. I opted out of wearing a dress because, well, I hate how they look. I don’t think they are cute… lederhosen, however… shorts with pockets, can’t go wrong with that!

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Fast forward to dinner – remember those Ohion’s I met back in France? They were in Munich for Oktoberfest as well, so we met up at Augustiner Keller for dinner. The beer garden was huge, and the basement was even bigger! I highly recommend stopping here for a bite if you are in the area. After 1/2 liter of beer + a belly full of pretzels, sausages, potatoes and eggs, I was ready for bed!

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The following morning, we all met back up at 7 am for the first day of Oktoberfest!

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We waited in line for over 2 hours at the Schottenhamel tent (most well known for where the first keg is tapped + all politicians/celebrities are at) until finally, we made it to the Beer Garden.

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It was FREEZING, and PACKED, but luckily there were heaters over top of the tables. We ordered food, which took forever – pretzels and half chickens – and we sipped on sparkling water while we waited for the festivities to start.

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The first keg was tapped, and we finally got our first liter of beer around 12:30 pm – well worth the wait! Everyone was getting a bit impatient – it was hard to wait 5.5 hours for a beer, but all was forgotten once we started drinking.

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The tent was packed, and we ended up staying until 3:30 pm – there was no way we were getting into the tent (some people bribed to get in, and the bouncers were not very nice!), so we headed off to the Armbrustschützenzelt tent to see if we could actually get inside (it had amazing reviews based on what I researched beforehand).

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Luckily, we were able to get inside AND find a table, all while meeting new German friends. Unfortunately, getting the table meant accidentally chugging an entire liter of beer on my part, so this is where things started to get a bit hazy… but absolutely entertaining. Everyone was so friendly and we ended up having an absolute blast!

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Around 7-7:30, I headed back home – catching a cab, because there was no way I could maneuver my way back to the hostel! I had only been drinking beer since noon, so I was hungry – luckily my hostel had a restaurant, and I ended up ordering 3 plates of food… much needed after drinking 4-5 liters of beer! I also made some new Australian friends, and I hung out and ate with them until around 10-11.

Overall, my first day at Oktoberfest was a blast! I met amazing, interesting people and drank lots of GOOD beer! I am not a beer lover, but German beer has converted me. And the food… I thought German food was gross… until I ate my way through Munich. Besides sauerkraut, everything I ate was amazing. Potatoes, pretzels, sausages, cheese…. I could live on that and be a very fat, happy woman. If you are headed to Oktoberfest, make sure you order the half chicken and eat unlimited amounts of pretzels… it makes the experience that much better!

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So after an entire day of Oktoberfest, I wasn’t sure if I was up for another day.. However, traveling solo with an open mind means you never know what will happen next… with that being said, stay tuned for Oktoberfest Part 2, as well another post on what I did (besides drink ;)) in Munich!

Has anyone ever been to Oktoberfest in Munich? If so, what tents did you like the most, and what was your favorite part about it? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Traveling Yogi: What I did in Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland.

One of the most gorgeous, gorgeous places I have EVER been to in my entire life. Besides Interlaken, but I will write about that another time.

After leaving Geneva, I took a 30 minute train ride to Lausanne, my first ever trip on a European train. So of course, I didn’t know that I had to get my ticket validated. Luckily, my Air bnb host in Geneva helped me out – he was getting off at a stop before me, and wanted to make sure I went to the correct place (do you see a recurring theme here of people helping me out because I get lost so easily?!). Anyways, we literally sprinted to the ticket office, cut in front of people in line, got my train ticket stamped, and sprinted up 2 flights of stairs to make the train on time. I honestly thought I was in shape, but I guess having a huge backpack on your back makes you rethink your true fitness level. Below is a recap, with pictures, of my time in Lausanne:

Day 3: September 16, 2015 – Lausanne, Switzerland

7:30 am: train from Geneva to Lausanne
8 am: Arrive at Lausanne train station

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Luckily, I found a great hostel located right next to the train station, and I saw it as soon as the train pulled into the city. At this point, I was starting to get more comfortable with directions and making my way around – I only got lost 2 other times the rest of the trip, and only for about 10 minutes. So you could say I learned a lot in my travels haha.

After getting off the train, I walked over to my hostel and hung out a little bit. I couldn’t check in until the afternoon, so I decided to hang out and plan my day. There were a few places I wanted to visit, and I found an awesome guide for bus transit through out the entire city. Which, I only ended up using once because the city wasn’t all that big – but I did walk a LOT. So I planned my day, hitting every single one of the spots I wanted to see, with a plan B if I ran over time.

First Stop: Botanical Gardens
This was not in my initial plans, but since I loved the botanical garden in Geneva so much, I decided to stop here. And I am SO glad I did… beautiful. Everything was amazing, and the view at the top… worth the walk! Pictures don’t even do justice. The view of the city, the houses, the mountains across lake Geneva… just stunning

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I also found an awesome mural at the top of the gardens and decided to do a few handstands. This place was deserted, so I got to play around as much as I wanted! The whole city was so peaceful.

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After my trek around the botanical gardens, I found a huge water fountain to do handstands around… not really sure what was so great about the fountains, but they were in a pretty cool park.

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After the gardens, I made my way to the Ouchy fishing pier. I can’t believe this wasn’t even on my list to see – the view was amazing. Nothing but water and mountains for miles! I really wish I had a better camera – to see everything in person was unbelievable. As soon as I walked around the area, I decided I was coming back in the afternoon for a run, not matter how tired I might be!

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After walking (and handstanding) around Ouchy, I hopped on a bus to Rue De Bourge, the city’s shopping center. I went here for 2 things: Chocolate and Yoga. While at the hostel earlier, I found  yoga studio – Yogashala – to take a 12 pm class at. And while most would think taking a yoga class in another language would be confusing, it is also very, very beautiful. Well, in French it is.

I took a Vinyasa/Anusara class led by Tracy Chaplin – and it is by far my most favorite yoga class I have ever taken in my life. The French language is absolutely beautiful – and while I had no idea what was being said half the time, I loved the movements, the mix of meditation in the practice, and the feeling of peace I felt in the class. While practicing, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude – the though of, “Omg, look at yourself. You are taking a yoga class, in Switzerland, in french. WHAT IS THIS LIFE.” And I started to tear up in class, full of gratitude and awed by the fact that I was able to create this experience in my life. And this is the point that I truly, truly, began to believe in myself. Which is why, if anyone ever asks me, I will always say, this was my favorite class – because it was a moment in time that changed how I view myself and the power I have to create what I want.

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After the class, I walked around the city, exploring little shops and enjoyed getting lost in the windy, hilly, brick streets of Lausanne. My last stop was actually right next to where I took the yoga class, so I stopped in to Blondel Chocolates – a highly recommended chocolatier in Switzerland. And, I swear, this is hands down the best chocolate I have ever eaten in my life. Also, the most expensive. But, life changing. The tiny store has an entire wall lined with sheets and sheets of different chocolates, and a case full of handmade truffles. I’m not going to say how much I spent here, but I will say that it was worth it. Also, I wish that I had bought more! If anyone is in the area, this is the place to stop.

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After shopping, I walked back to the hostel to check in and rest for a bit. After getting settled in, I went back out for a run, planning to stop at the Olympic Park/museum next to Ouchy. After walking for a solid 3+ hours that afternoon, my body was still up for a 4 mile run. Running down the hills – awesome. The 2 miles back up – not so awesome. The view = worth it. After making it to the Olympic park, I ran all the way to the top, and the view was worth it all. Amazing view of the lake + mountains! Overall, complete gratitude for a laundry list of things: one year ago, I was learning to walk/run again… and here I am, running 4+ miles up and down the hills of switzerland, exploring on my own, soaking up the beauty of the mountains, discovering things about myself, and feeling joy that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Completely Surreal.

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Just a note – I didn’t actually go into the museum – museums really aren’t my thing. I am like a little kid – I’ll go in and look at everything, maybe touch a few things, then leave within 5 minutes. I’d rather just experience everything around me versus walk through a building.

After arriving back at my hostel, I showered, did some laundry, and chatted with a few people from the hostel. I was recommended to go to a local Italian restaurant nearby, Milan, so I took a walk around 9 pm and grabbed dinner by myself – the perfect end to a wonderful day. (Yes, those are fries on my plate. After eating nothing but chocolate all day, I decided to actually get some salty food in my body ;))

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I wish I had more pictures that captured the beauty of Lausanne – it was truly a lovely city, and 1 day was the perfect amount of time to explore. If you are ever making your way through Switzerland, I highly recommend stopping at this gorgeous city!

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