Seasoned View : Vol. 25

Each month we share our Seasoned View.  Snapshots of nature and daily life taken by the Seasoned sisters. Find our archive of past months’ views here.

Sup pups? It’s been a year, yuuuuup, an entire year since we’ve come at ya with a seasoned view, but boom! Just like that we’re back. I spent the evening researching and pricing out yoga retreat packages for Tulum, Mexico and now I cannot stop thinking about the beach. Warmth, coconuts, waves, sand, books, sunglasses, beer, sunsets, all the other island buzzwords you can think of, that’s where my head is at right now. Throw your towel down and enjoy looking at the horizon with me, this Seasoned View takes place on the tiny island of Koh Kood, Thailand.

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You can download any or all of these images to use as  backgrounds and screensavers for your computer, phone or tablet.  Simply click on the photo or the link below each photo then right click and save it to your device. While you browse, learn to count to four in Thai.

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Koh Lipe & Thai Islands Packing List

18015712_10155074277711217_653301825_o Happy Monday fools! I’m back with yet another packing list post. What can I say? I know how to fill a bag. Packing for a trip to a Thai island is pretty simple, you don’t need too much since you’ll likely be lounging in your bathing suit most of the time.

Most recently I visited Koh Lipe, Thailand’s southern most island. Wow. Koh Lipe is pure magic. I’ve been to a number of Thai islands during my time as an English teacher, but there is something really special about this particular island. It’s really tiny and therefore easy to explore by foot and that’s what I did most days when I wasn’t lounging on one of the pristine beaches.  If you’re visiting Koh Lipe, here’s a short list of what you’ll need. I linked to the exact products I use – enjoy 🙂

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Bangkok Airport Transfer

DMK —> BKK ? NP!

Need to transfer from Don Mueang Airport to Suvarnabhumi? No worries. The transfer is painless and free. There’s no need to make arrangements before hand, just show up at the ticket desk and you’ll be directed onto the next shuttle bus. While the transfer is reliable and easy, there isn’t a single sign to point you in the right direction. Let me do that for you.

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If you’re picking up baggage :: get your stuff from the carousel, head out the main doors (there is only one set) and turn right.

If you didn’t check luggage :: take the escalators down into the baggage claim area and walk straight through the main doors (there is only one set) to leave the baggage area and turn right.

As you head down the corridor, you’ll see escalators heading up, walk to the right of them and keep going.  Then you’ll pass a bunch of counters for cell SIM cards and you’ll see no signage for the bus. At this point, you’ll think you’re going in the wrong direction down a deserted hallway.

You’ll come to a wall and the only way is left. Once you turn the corner you may be overwhelmed by the amount of people. They’re all waiting for taxis, keep going, veer to the right and head out either door 7 (right by the bottom of the escalators ) or the next one to the right, door 6.

Once outside you’ll see a small bright blue counter and a long row of chairs. The counter says AOT (Airports of Thailand). You must get a stamp from this counter or you won’t be allowed on the shuttle. Show the worker your boarding pass or some confirmation number for your upcoming flight and he’ll give you a stamp. Since you probably won’t have a physical boarding pass or access to a printer, simply screenshot the flight and confirmation number from your email or airline app. I do this every time.

 Shuttle buses leave from directly in front of the counter. If there isn’t one waiting already, you’ll know when it arrives as everyone with a stamped hand will board. Buses leave every 15 minutes or so.  If you want a good seat and you have time to spare, wait for the next one.

Just so ya know :

Seats in the back row have an attractive amount of legroom, but do not sit there. Machinery under the rear of the bus makes those four seats overwhelmingly hot. You’ve been warned.

Beware that Bangkok traffic is insane and it could take you up to two hours to reach the airport as it’s quite far away. Think about rush hour, timing, days of the week and holiday madness while concocting your plan. That being said, most times it’s a quick 40 minutes.

You Should Definitely Take the Shuttle Because :

It’s free

It’s reliable

It’s convenient with about four buses leaving every hour

It’s free 🙂

Good luck & safe travels!

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Travel Bug: Bangkok, Thailand

I’ve doubled my days in Bangkok this past year – enjoy our updated BKK guide.

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If you have never ventured to Bangkok, you probably have a few ideas of what it is like from movies like The Hangover Part II, Dangerous Bangkok, and Into The Sun (plus a trillion other action movies); if you have been fortunate enough to miss those thrillers, picture bright lights, speedy taxis, street food and lots and lots of people.  Bangkok is one of those cities that takes you in, spins you around and spits you out.  Thankfully there are lovely Thai beaches just a bus ride away and after a week in BKK one needs a nap, a really long nap.

As a traveler, cities aren’t high on my list.  I try to stick to small towns and natural attractions; I tend to search for those hidden gems and slices of everyday living, but because I spent the better part of a year in Thailand, I learned to love and embrace Bangkok, a city with more than 7 million inhabitants.  I had the opportunity to explore Bangkok multiple times for various reasons like typical tourism, friends’ birthdays, English teaching orientation, family visits and weekend-long shopping sprees.  Each time I ventured into the city, I felt more and more comfortable and willing to explore new places and enjoy old hangouts.  Bangkok was no longer an enormous scary city (ok, it’s still pretty huge), but rather a transit hub and pit stop that I visited every month while living in Thailand.  I began to recognize neighborhoods, streets, parks, particular statues, elevated walkways, and even specific vendors and food carts, it became a city of smaller neighborhoods and much more manageable to wrap my head around. Continue reading

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10 Tips for Learning to Ride a Motorbike

liveseasoned motorbike thailand-3Learning to ride a motorbike abroad will open up a world of possibilities. You are able to travel at any time of day or night, explore secret corners of each city as well as deep interiors of islands without much planning. Once you’re confident on a motorbike, a newfound freedom will have you scooting the days away in search of adventure that is available to only those with the skills to get them there.

Personally, I had a horrible first day. I was confused, anxious, scared, and feeling quite incapable. I ended up letting my best friend drive me around for the next year and while I was quite happy with the situation, I had no idea what I was missing until five years later when I was forced to try again. Cut to five days after that and I was zipping through rush hour traffic in Chiang Mai like a little pro. Force yourself out of your comfort zone and the world will expand in front of you. Learning to confidently ride a motorbike was quite possibly my biggest accomplishment of 2016, and something I can only improve upon for the rest of my life. Here’s how to start:

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Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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Sticky Waterfall – Bua Tong

During my adventures, I’m often captivated by the natural beauty I witness. I’ve felt the sudden and overwhelming need to hug trees, lay down in the dirt, and literally salute the sun, but every once in a while there is a place that leaves me in complete aw. A place so magical that I know I will visit again because I must show someone else the wonder. Bua Tong is that place. All afternoon I felt dumbstruck. How is it possible that this type of beauty exists in nature? I felt like I was transported to Neverland, there was just no way that what I was seeing and experiencing was real. Was I asleep? Did someone slip me acid? Am I in a storybook? Nope, the earth is really this amazing and I had the opportunity to experience it.  Let me attempt at explaining what I experienced at Bua Tong although surely no words or images will come close.

What is Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s just that. It’s sticky not slick, so one is able to walk quite easily up and down the slope of it even with water rushing by. What makes it this way? An abundance of calcium carbonate runoff.  Calcium carbonate is commonly found in Limestone, which is what lies under the thick deposits that you see covering the falls. Even though I briefly researched the waterfall (I didn’t look at any photos) before visiting, it didn’t prepare me for the experience.


Walking up a waterfall. How absurd. That’s what I thought while reading about Bua Tong. Once I arrived, I stripped down and slathered on sunscreen all the while keeping my eyes on the handful of people walking up the falls. They were making it look so easy, but they looked athletic and young, surely it was harder than it appeared. Then it was time to try it for myself, I braced myself, felt my core tighten and prepared to face plant as I took my first step. Complete shock and amazement washed over me as I took one step and then another upwards through the rushing water. With my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide, I looked around at my friends, ‘are you seeing this!?,’ is what I’m sure my expression read. Pure bliss and bewilderment followed me around the rest of the afternoon and I climbed up and down, up and down, all around  Bua Tong. The mineral deposits look like white, cloud-like  sponges and actually feel similar though a little bit harder and slightly pricky, the surface even gives slightly under a firm touch.  There were a few patches that were slick, but it is because the calcium carbonate was covered with a mossy slime. These spots are easy to see and avoid.


In the company of only about two dozen other travelers, Bua Tong had truly felt like one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. Usually while traveling you’re forced to share the magic, but here it was all our own. As I looked around, I saw that most people had carved out a little space on the waterfall’s slope to sit in the sun and marvel at where their life had brought them. It was only a few minutes later that I joined my best friend, Natasha, on a sunny log in the middle of the rushing current to simply be. As I lay meditating, tiny tickles of what I thought were mosquitoes kept dragging me back to the outer world. It was in the midst of one of these tickling sensations that I opened my eyes and realized, it wasn’t mosquitos at all, but dozens of colorful butterflies. I closed my eyes again, determined to be at peace with each coming sensation. As I reflected on my weeks in Thailand, the friends in my company, my path in general, I had the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that materialized as a single teardrop from each eye. Life is beautiful. There is magic everywhere and I have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it takes a trip to never never land to remind you that every single day is a gift to be cherished and spent wisely, whether you’re climbing a sticky waterfall or navigating your work week.


Are you ready for a spiritual awakening? Kidding, but here are more details on how to reach Bua Tong and what to experience while you’re there.

What to pack:

  • Money for gas and snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Book
  • Camera
  • Dry bag/waterproof bag if you have one
  • Long sleeve or sweatshirt (the ride home will be a little chilly)

 

How to get there:

Located over an hour outside of Chiang Mai, Bua Tong isn’t on the beaten tourist track, but still worth a visit. We rented motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai, which costs roughly 200-300b per day. I personally enjoy driving and navigating through crazy Thai traffic, but to some this may seem dangerous or unappealing. If you are in the latter group, you can ask your guesthouse or a tour operator for a songtaue to Bua Tong, but because it’s so far outside the city, it will be kinda pricy for Thai travel standards. I would find a cool crew the day before and convince them that they need to join you on this quest, that will surely reduce the price of the songtaue. If you’re in the former and you’re down to drive a motorbike, download either the app maps.me or google maps and download the northern Thailand map, while you have wifi that way you’ll have to problem navigating to Bua Tong. It really isn’t too tough and once you are about twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai, the traffic really slows down. I think driving the motorbikes to and from Bua Tong really added to the adventure and it was nice exploring the falls at our own pace instead of knowing a songtaue driver was waiting around for us.
What to explore :

Obviously you came for the sticky waterfall. If I were you, I’d take the stairs all the way to the bottom, stash your bag on a log (most people left their bags near the bottom of the falls unattended, I did the same and didn’t worry about my $3,000+ camera once, but do what feels comfortable to you) and start the climb up. Find a nice space to sun yourself midway or hike all the way to the top in one go. Now it’s time to hike down. Slightly scary, but equally easy. There are several ropes along the way to offer support in tricky areas  and ensure your decent is safe. Don’t you dare chicken out and take the stairs back down. You only live once. Once back at the bottom, continue a little further than the bag drop area where the stairs end. You’ll find another smaller waterfall with a shallow plunge pool at the bottom. Submerge yourself and dig your toes down into the soft, glittery sand, you did it.


After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, hike back up to the tip and explore the natural seven colored fountain. Even if you’re famished and tired (we were both) you can make it to the fountain. It’s less than a five minute walk and it’s a wooden boardwalk the entire way. You’ll be amazed at how insanely clear the water is and you’ll enjoy leafy jungle views on the way to and from.

There’s also another short hike depicted on a large wooden sign near the entrance to the fountain trail, we decided against it only because we were sure to die of hunger (or morph into hangry demons) at any moment. We contemplated buying a snack from the small restaurant on site and then completing the hike, but we wanted to have time to stop on the road for a late lunch and return to Chiang Mai before dark.


Where to eat & stay:

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped at the loveliest little guesthouse and restaurant. If we had more time, we certainly would have stayed the night. The guest house is called Howiman or Horwiman. You pull off the road across from Lhongkhoa Resort and head straight down the dirt hill, you’ll immediately see a grouping of dark wooden buildings on the left and you’ll probably hear a yapping little dog, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. If we could have stayed and drank our Chiangs in frosty mugs all evening we totally would have. Next time I visit Bua Tong I will.  


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Two Bits

We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned

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Sarah Here :

Happy Friday! Yesterday I was hit with a wave of sinus pressure that knocked me off my feet – literally – I just sat on my yoga mat for a few hours.  I stretched, pondered, meditated, and just generally sat in a hazy fog of sinus annoyance.  Today I’m going to try to work through it by writing about the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  I was reminded of another beautiful, high-altitude adventure yesterday when my pop asked me for this image from Phu Chi Fah, Thailand:

Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-103Phu Chi Fah is a tiny village perched on the northeastern side of the Phi Pan Nam Range, a mountain chain that borders northern Thailand and Laos.  There’s an amazing set of cliffs that one can hike up in the dark in order to watch the sunrise.  It’s a spectacular sight as the clouds roll in looking like water.Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-100 I’ve never been so cold as the hour I sat waiting on a windy cliff for the sun to come up.Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-101 Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-102 When it finally rose and turned the landscape into a warm orangey scene, I felt like the entire morning had been a dream.Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-104 I was most intrigued by the weekend trading market that sprang up on the side of the mountain that Sunday morning.  Driving through, I was glued to the bus window, vowing to return and explore the mountain market someday.  That was five years ago, but I still think about it often.Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-105 Then there was this amazing vegetarian restaurant that Saleem and I visited at least four times that weekend.  The food in northern Thailand is unlike the rest of the country’s cuisine. So spicy and delicious.Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-106 After lunch, we wandered into a shop that had at least a hundred different kinds of shoelaces.  I was over the moon because I had been wanting black laces in these sneaks for over a year, but had been unwilling to spend more that $1 for new ones. Seriously, how much better do they look?Live Seasoned Phu Chi Fah, Thailand 12-11-107The light in the bus terminal was just unreal, the whole weekend had been unreal. Can you spot the dog?

I’m off to write all weekend long.  I may take a break to watch my Panthers destroy Katie’s Broncos in the Super Bowl! By watch, I mean I’ll make finger food to enjoy while I pretend to cheer for the team from my home state.  Katie is probably just realizing now that the Broncos are playing in the big game…

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Tips For Visiting Temples

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Visiting ancient temples and beautiful mosques abroad is quite popular and enjoyable.  It surprised me a little bit since I’m not religious at all, but it’s more of a cultural experience than a religious one.  If you’re new to traveling or have never visited a temple abroad there are a few things you should know before you go.  I’ve learned some tips and tricks along the way and thought it could be helpful to share them here.  I feel so lucky to have visited dozens of religious sites in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Kathmandu, India and beyond.  Read on to discover all the things I’ve learned along the way.

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