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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Thailand : 30 day packing list

Happy Monday! Last night I slept in my bed for the first time since mid-January. Wow. What an amazing feeling. I love traveling, but who can beat snoozing in their own bed, hogged by their own huge dog? I didn’t think so. I wanted to republish this post today since I’ll be stuffing all this goodness into my own bag this evening. On Wednesday, I’m embarking on my first official travel guiding trip. Five first-time travelers (to Asia) will be in my hands – better wish us luck 😉

Katie here : Sarah’s in Thailand! What a lucky bum! But really, I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to hear about the adventures as she travels. During her first stint in Thailand, she kept a lengthy journal on her Tumblr account and it was amazing – all of our friends and family were anxious waiting for each new post. If you’re interested in that experience, those posts are still accessible – just scroll down to November 2011 through April 2012 in her archive. Today she’s checking in with a timely post on packing and staying calm when your luggage takes a different plane ;-). 

Once upon a time, packing was a completely daunting task. I remember I would call my friend Kandy and we would pack together, which really meant wandering around our respective rooms talking about random things and placing an item or two in a bag every twenty minutes or so. Fast forward ten years and packing is a breeze. I have an easy foolproof method that I stick to and my packing gets completed in no time. Today I wanted to share a sample packing list for spending one month in Thailand and how I go about packing in general. Continue reading

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Sydney Coastal Walk


You’ve spent a few days in Sydney and you’re ready for adventure. The Coastal Walk is the best way to stay close to the city center while enjoying a bit of nature and getting some exercise in. If you go about completing the entire walk from Coogee to Bondi it’s about six km and will take you anywhere from two to three hours, but I recommend packing a little beach backpack, starting in the morning and seeing where your day takes you.  Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for side quests. You can challenge yourself by scrambling over boulders, refresh yourself by taking a swim in various tidal pools and beaches and of course there are plenty of places to stop and eat and drink throughout your journey. 


Like most of our travel posts on Live Seasoned, we like to give you a general idea for your day or adventure, but leave the details up to you. For that reason, I’ll point out a few of my favorite places to take a dip and grab a bite to eat, but otherwise, the world is your oyster. Pack your bag, slather on some sunscreen and have one of the most beautiful walks of your life. The Coastal Walk is not to be missed. I trotted along this path five days in a row never tiring of the scenery. 



Before I ventured to the coast, I was under the impression that it would take up a full day, which it certainly can, but I didn’t realize you could hop on and off the walk, take a bus to one area and then walk or uber to another, the possibilities really are endless. On my final day in Sydney I decided to walk north from Coogee to Bondi and then turn around and walk all the way back. With ample rest and refresh time throughout it was quite an easy walk and the perfect final day on the eastern coast. This walk is suitable for young and old alike, beginners and uber fit altheletes, it’s really perfect for everyone.


What to pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sneakers (it can be done in sandals)
  • Camera
  • Turkish towel or sarong




Highlights:

Take a dip in the rock enclosed tidal pool near Coogee. After you cool off, scramble over sandstone boulders, sunbathe by the sea and brave the incoming tidal waves. 

Now it’s time to begin the walk, head north to Gordan’s Bay and enjoy the pristine views. 

Take a seat in the shade at Bundock Park for a little rest while you watch the surf lap along a collection of rocks, fondly referred to at Wedding Cake Point, way out in the ocean, don’t worry, you’ll see them. 

After a little refresh, it’s time to head further north towards Clovelly Beach. If the rough Sydney surf intimidates you, the Clovelly ocean pool is the perfect solution. Swim a few laps, drip dry on the sunbathing deck and then pop into Sea Salt cafe for a little snack. 

After a nibble, prepare yourself for Shark’s Point, a massive rock cliff that is sure to take your breath away. Sit and meditate here for a moment before walking on towards Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club where you should certainly buy a drink to enjoy in the air conditioned event ballroom that overlooks the ocean. 

Once you’ve had a proper break and you’re all cooled down, walk through Waverly Cemetery towards Nelson’s Bay and Bronte Beach. Bronte baths is another nice seaside salt pool for swimming and lounging or you can head to Bronte Road, the street behind and parallel to the beach and park, for a lunch prepared with fresh ingredients. Over the course of the week, I ate at Jenny’s & Bronte Bela and both were yummy.

The next section of the walk, between Bronte and Tamarama is absolutely gorgeous so really take your time on the cliff and cave section and do some exploring.


 Round Mackenzies Point and  enjoy the final stretch to Bondi Beach. Bondi is a surfer’s paradise and you’ll likely see hundreds in the water at any one time. After strolling past the beautifully painted cement wall that separates the grass and sand at Bondi, stop at Lush Cafe to reward yourself with a snack and libations.

You could easily end the night here by watching a movie in the park or grabbing dinner at one of the dozens of restaurants on Campbell Parade, but if you’re up for it, you could also stroll back once you’re feeling refreshed.


If you decide to walk back, which you should because the sun hasn’t set yet, end your night at Coogee Pavilion. It’s an enormous restaurant with multiple bars and a ton of game and play areas for families downstairs and lots more ocean view seating upstairs for a calmer chill, outdoor garden type of vibe.

After dinner and drinks, you’ll probably have to crawl back to the car, but I know it was worth it.

Pack a bag, tie up those trainers and hop on the coastal walk and remember, jumping off the path occasionally makes the experience last longer and fuels you for that next flight of stairs so take my suggestions and nibble, drink, meditate, swim and play along the way. Enjoy!

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How To Make Your Hotel Room Feel Like Home


Growing up, we camped a lot. With so many tents and trailers around, it was really rare as a family of six to stay in a hotel room and even if we did, it was usually overcrowded, sterile and uncomfortable. I have a faint memory of the excitement of discovering the door inside the hotel room that could connect our family’s two rooms, but besides that I remember feeling uncomfortable in the new space, bored and quite hungry. What can I say, I’m a grazer. I like my snacks. Fast forward twenty years and I frequent hotel rooms and Airbnb’s often for work and play.
I realized that I’ve come a long way. I love exploring these new spaces and I can feel instantly at home almost anywhere I travel to. Maybe it’s because I’m lucky enough to find lovely spaces or maybe it’s a few simple necessities that transform any hostel or hotel into an instant oasis. Here’s a few of my favorite comforts that morph a hotel room into a home. You’ll notice that most have an element that elevates the vibe, atmosphere and energy of the space and after all isn’t that what makes a house a home?

  • Portable speaker – Music emphasizes whatever mood you’re trying to achieve. Want to relax? Wanna pregame or party? Want to block out your hotel neighbors who sound like they’re on their honeymoon or worse yet, like they’re preparing for a divorce? Perfect – blast those tunes. Adding tunes to the equation customizes each activity from your morning shower and bathroom routine to your midday yoga flow. Memories are also tightly tied to music therefor you truly have the power to burn your vacation into your memory by creating a special playlist for the occasion. Although I’ve used a half dozen portable speakers, I was recently gifted this beautiful bass powerhouse crafted by Bang & Olufsen and I could not recommend it enough.
  • Fuzzy throw blanket – Maybe this seems redundant to you. Obviously there are blankets in your hotel room, but there’s nothing like a cozy throw while you’re lounging on the balcony or curled up with a good book by the window. Usually hotel comforters are big, bulky, and (hopefully) full of down, which is nice for sleeping, but too much for a casual hang. Your fuzzy throw probably smells like home too, which helps if your missing your partner or kids. Bonus? When everyone is shivering under their scratchy airline blanket you’ll be snoozing away in your window seat and while you can’t hear your neighbors, they’re commenting on what a savvy traveler you are. Forget the stupid travel pillow and pack a throw instead.
  • Candles – It’s amazing how one flickering light can change the mood of a room. The soft glow and ambiance from a candle or two kicks overhead lighting’s ass any day. I always travel with a tea light if not something larger. If you have time to spare at your destination, shopping for a candle on day one makes for a fun mini mission. You’ll surely wander into a few inspiring shops and you’ll support a local maker with your candle purchase. I love, love, love this candle. It’s worth every penny and makes a beautiful gift.
  • Flowers – seems like a luxury, right? Actually, flowers are pretty inexpensive if you’re buying local blooms. It’s not like you need a dozen roses. While you’re out candle shopping, wander through a flower market or visit the farmer’s market and pick up a bouquet of in-season wild flowers. Each time you walk into your hotel room a smile is sure to spread across your face. *And while we appreciate this luxury on the road, we always make it a point of trying to buy local & seasonal flowers, or those that have the Rainforest Alliance certification.
  • Snacks – save yourself! Buy some snacks. Never be hangry again and please don’t settle for shitty vending machine chocolate. Treat yourself like the grown ass adult that you are. A simple stop at a local grocer, co-op or even a gas station is a mass improvement over the mini bar. My go to travel snacks usually include a bottle of keefir, hummus, crackers, fruit (something easy like a bunch of grapes, citrus or apples) and of course a nice chocolate bar. You really just need a few nibbles to tide you over when a snack attack comes on, it’s not like these are the groceries you’ll be living off of.
  • Tea – most hotel rooms will have an electric kettle or coffee pot in the room. Instead of drinking the plain Jane Lipton teas that are provided, pack a few of your own tea bags. I alway travel with tea and honestly it’s like a mini vacation with each cup. I’m instantly transported into a comfort zone and I can’t help but feel gratitude for taking such good care of myself. Apparently self care comes down to a cup of good tea for me. If you’re one of those people that needs coffee ASAP upon waking up, it’s not a bad idea to pack a little baggie of your own beans either. I skip this since I really enjoy trying out new coffee shops, but maybe a cup of your own Joe is what your travel mornings are missing?
  • Scents – weird one, huh? Not at all! Scents, like music, are strongly tied to memory and really we’re talking about aromatherapy here. You have the power to alter your mood and elevate your happiness with smells, so pack some! I highly recommend a paolo santo stick or incense, some invigorating eucalyptus oil for the shower, some soothing sandalwood oil for your bathrobe or pillow and even a little calming lavender satchel for your dresser drawer during the day and under your pillow at night. I know some folks who travel with essential oil diffusers and personally, I call them geniuses.


That’s that! Have I convinced you to pack a few more items in that backpack or suitcase? I mean seriously, imagine coming home after a long day of meetings or a chaotic trip through a local market and you walk through your hotel door greeted by a fresh bouquet of flowers. You immediately go about lighting a candle and burning some incense, pouring yourself a cup of tea, turning on your favorite album and curling up under your fuzzy blanket to reflect on your day. I think the only thing that could make the moment better is a piece of dark chocolate and thankfully you’ve thought of that too 🙂

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Cultivate a Life of Travel

Live seasoned live a life of travel designTraveling extensively really comes down to a few factors: time, money, and willingness.  If you’re willing, you are capable of creating the time and funds to take a trip.  If I, the least motivated money maker on the planet, can scrape together enough cash to travel to 15+ countries, you can too.  I absolutely despise money and trading my precious time for work (some people read this as being lazy, but I assure you I’m not), but travel motivates me to make paper.  Traveling is a drug and I am in the throws of addiction.  Life feels dull if I’m not exploring. Here’s how I motivate myself to maintain a life revolving around travel.

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Ecuador Packing List

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Howdy! Nine days until I fly to Ecuador and I can tell you, I’m not ready! I’m just beginning to pull out my backpack and lazily toss things inside.  I’ll be in Ecuador for about two weeks. The first week, I’ll be attending and working at a yoga retreat. The second week, I’m planning on climbing a couple mountains. While packing, I always think back to this article and while I can’t pack quite as light as that couple, I’m really going to try to take only the bare minimal on this trip. I’ll need some equipment for trekking and a few gadgets for my photo work, but otherwise not much. I’ve linked to my exact gear below. Happy packing!

Here’s what I’m taking:

That’s it for now. I plan on taking my hiking backpack and a small shoulder bag to carry everything.  I’ll also pack everything inside big plastic bags for protection. Am I forgetting anything?

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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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