A Travellerspoint blog

Langkawi

Rolling with the punches

We signed up for our first volunteer experience at a resort on the beautiful island of Langkawi, Malaysia. The island looks and feels very similar to Hawaii and mostly all Malaysians speak near perfect English. We planned to stay one month volunteering at the resort, where in exchange for a few hours of work per day we would be given free room and free meals. This particular workaway sounded perfect for us, with my customer service/sales background I expected to be working with the guests and Zach would be helping with the construction and remodeling. Yeaaahhh that didn't go as planned. The woman owner picked us up from the airport and we were instantly hit with a cold front. This women was straight cold and unfriendly. Where was the kind and wonderful woman written about in the reviews that was suppose to be welcoming us like family? Things went even worse when we got to the resort and saw our accommodations and found out that basically all we would be doing is painting for 3 weeks. There is huge story around the horrors and experience about this place, but me blogging about it won't do it justice. Maybe you'll hear a good story over a beer one day. In a nut shell, it just did not even remotely resemble what we thought we were signing up for. There was another volunteer, an easy going girl from Vancouver(thank god, I'm beyond exhausted from deciphering the British accents or speaking broken English to Europeans. Finally I can talk like me again!) . The three of us became close real quick and we decided just to leave. So we did. We booked a cheap hotel by the beach and toured the island and hung out for a few days while figuring out our next move. Since Keri is traveling alone, I think she's gonna join us for a bit so we should have some good times ahead.
We had a really great time exploring Langkawi, it's a beautiful island and I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance. We did also develop a great bond with the male owner of the resort as well as the Malaysian workers we volunteered with. Even after we left the resort we hung out with them a bunch and the owner even chartered us a boat and took us island hopping. It's been a long and fun week but I am ready to leave the island and start our next adventure!

Rafiis...the bar we somehow ended up at everyday

Rafiis...the bar we somehow ended up at everyday

The volunteer shack in the middle of the jungle

The volunteer shack in the middle of the jungle


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Painting!

Painting!


More painting fun

More painting fun

The volunteering room

The volunteering room

Water festival on the beach

Water festival on the beach

The men lining up to go into the water and catch a duck

The men lining up to go into the water and catch a duck

Dick hunt top 3

Dick hunt top 3

The duck hunt winner. So proud

The duck hunt winner. So proud

Raffis during the water festival. Tents were blocking our view!

Raffis during the water festival. Tents were blocking our view!

Sunset in Cenang

Sunset in Cenang

There is no filter on this. The sunset was real. Absolutely stunning to watch

There is no filter on this. The sunset was real. Absolutely stunning to watch

The working crew out

The working crew out

Swimming in waterfall...when in Malaysia swim like the Muslims do

Swimming in waterfall...when in Malaysia swim like the Muslims do

Keri and Fari

Keri and Fari

Motorbiking the island

Motorbiking the island

The resort staff on our boat charter

The resort staff on our boat charter

Playing in the sand on the island tour...Zach sleeping in the background

Playing in the sand on the island tour...Zach sleeping in the background

Swimming in one of the empty islands on boat tour

Swimming in one of the empty islands on boat tour

Zach swimming

Zach swimming

8

8

Zach got the big fish

Zach got the big fish

Fish spa

Fish spa

The start of the cable car

The start of the cable car

Keri and I going up

Keri and I going up

Breathtaking views

Breathtaking views

I was scared on the cable car

I was scared on the cable car

Beautiful

Beautiful

Just another beautiful sunset

Just another beautiful sunset

Posted by inbetweendreams 04:47 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Relaxing in Hoi An

We came to Vietnam with the intention of moving here and finding jobs teaching English. Then we discovered workaway (volunteering a few hours a day for free room and board) and decided that could help finance our travels so we could go longer and farther. As much as I love Vietnam, we ultimately choose to leave and get the opportunity to see more places instead of just staying put in one (even if that place is my favorite in the world)

Instead of hitting the job circuit, we spent 2 weeks in Hoi An just lounging and relaxing. I've already written a blog about Hoi An from when we stopped before Thailand so I won't go into detail again. (www.inbetweendreams.travellerspoint.com/4/)
This trip was different. We did straight nothing and I loved it. We only went into the tourist trap of Ancient town twice, once at night to enjoy the lanterns and another to buy some new books. We met some great people at our guesthouse and got in some quality pool and beach time, had some good good eatin, and lingered in cafés enjoying the best coffee in the world. We had a brief scare because our favorite restaurant, My Canh, was knocked down. Staring at the pile of rubble, tears literally began swelling in my eyes. Should we just leave Hoi An now? How could we stay without My Canh? This struggle was real. As luck would have it while we were sullenly driving into town I caught a glimpse of the same My Canh sign just a bit down the road. Was this a mirage? A mean horrible trick? Nope, they just moved locations and a bigger and better My Canh existed. All was right again. Hoi An, you have my heart. We will meet again.

Our favorite cafe. And seriously why can't anyone else make coffee this good?!

Our favorite cafe. And seriously why can't anyone else make coffee this good?!


My days consisted mainly of this.

My days consisted mainly of this.

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large_33A23A152219AC6817E177FD5F119286.jpgCau lau...a Hoi An specialty. You must try if you visit

Cau lau...a Hoi An specialty. You must try if you visit


large_33A193452219AC6817251CDCEFD2BDA7.jpglarge_33A0D7EA2219AC6817626A0585191FD8.jpgMy dream home

My dream home


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large_IMG_20140502_153409.jpglarge_IMG_20140502_124129.jpgZach happy at My Canh

Zach happy at My Canh

Rice harvesting season. We literally watched the green fields disappear to yellow in 2 weeks

Rice harvesting season. We literally watched the green fields disappear to yellow in 2 weeks


Vietnamese fishing boats

Vietnamese fishing boats

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Anthony Bourdains claimed these to be the best banh mi in the world. Eh they were ok


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Zach and the owner of My Canh

Zach and the owner of My Canh


large_IMG_20140506_222126.jpgJapanese bridge at night

Japanese bridge at night

hoi an is known for its lanterns

hoi an is known for its lanterns

red lotus

red lotus

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Posted by inbetweendreams 08:23 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Zach's guest blog

Deep thoughts in Hoi An

Blogging has proven to be tough for me because it's so hard to put all of my feelings and experiences into words. Often, I feel like it's boring and most things you really just need to experience to understand. So for everyone reading: go travel now! Anyways, I stole the below excerpt from Zach's journal and think it captures a moment he had perfectly. Enjoy this blog from Zach's perspective

This is going to be difficult to describe because I have never wrote about the experiences I have had while living in Southeast Asia. We have spent almost a week in Hoi An (our absolute favorite city in the world) and the beauty has become something far better then memory could ever describe. I have had countless experiences worth writing about, yet have never found the motivation to put them onto paper until tonight.
After the Chick and I spent an evening at My Canh- a place we have dubbed our favorite restaurant in the world- we made our way home via motorbike. The restaurant experience will easily be remembered as we watched a very intoxicated server ride a child's toy car with the owners son and daughter rapidly around the restaurant. I couldn't say whose giggles were louder between the three of them. The meal was incredible as always, and the atmosphere is everything we hope for being in a foreign country (we are always the only white people).

The waitress having a ball

The waitress having a ball

Upon arriving to the room, Steph (as always) got right to the planning of our future endeavors (something which I will be eternally grateful to her for, as I get to be the guy who is just coming along for the ride). I excuse myself as she plans, to go have a drink outside. Our hotel shuts down at about 9 pm so I have spent multiple nights outside alone sharing a drink with the security guard. He is a gentle man of about 50 who doesn't speak a word of English. He has unsuccessfully tried giving me Vietnamese lessons before but I was lost in a fluster. Now we try to use hand motions but usually to no avail.
Tonight was different. I went out back to where the beautiful pool and breakfast table are located. After about 5 minutes of peaceful thought about our future workaway projects leading us through Nepal and Turkey, the security guard joined me for our nightly interaction. After sitting in silence for about 2 minutes, he went to check on a noise from the front of the hotel. When he returned he had his phone in hand (circa 2002) playing the relaxing, soothing music that is Vietnamese music. He set the phone down on the table between us and poured me some tea. We sat for about 15 minutes just listening to the peaceful music quietly playing from his phone. What makes this so memorable to me, and separates it from other experiences I have had while in Asia is that after sharing a beer and tea we at no point felt the need to speak. It was a silent understanding between the two of us that we were simply sitting there enjoying each other's company and listening to beautiful music in a perfect place. Language divide meant nothing. It is something I will never forget. It is in essence the "moments" I hope to encounter while traveling abroad.

the security guard

the security guard

Posted by inbetweendreams 07:45 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Plans Change

Our final Thai stop in Phuket

General update, we have decided to leave Thailand. It was a tough decision but decided to resign from my dream position in Krabi. Many things were factored into this decision, including poor planning on my visa situation, a mild panic attack, and a general desire to travel and not be tied down. In the end, I feel good about leaving and I am excited about the unknown road ahead.
After Koh Phi Phi, we took the ferry to Phuket and I gotta admit I didn't hate it. To all of those who asked me which island to visit and I disgustingly advised not to visit Phuket, I apologize for my ignorance. I prejudged and based my opinion on stereotypes. I'm an awful person. However, I still would not recommend Phuket over any of the other islands I've been to unless you are looking for a prostitute or a full blown Vegas style " What happens in Phuket, stays in Phuket" type of week. I think the reason I liked it was because it seemed livable, but as a vacation spot, ehhhh. It's crowded and big and the beaches look like the Jersey shore on a hot summer day (not an inch of sand to be spared). But it is very mountainous and beautiful in its own right.

We stayed in a cute little bungalow on the edge of Patong. It felt airy and homey and had a kitchen and a pool and my first question upon checking in was "how much for the month?". The price was surprisingly reasonable, and we toyed with the idea of moving to Phuket. Why not? There's plenty of work and if after a month we don't find work all we've lost is the ridiculously cheap rent. It was settled, we were moving to Phuket.

The next morning as we are drinking our coffee on the porch, the man living across from us gets dropped off by a taxi. He has a beer in his hand and a young Thai girl on his arm. They are giggling immensely. He immediately changes into a thong and pops a Celine Dion cd on and they start ravaging each other to "you are my lady and I am your man" on their balcony. We gather from his accent that he is Russian, and he knows barely any English. She is Thai and knows barely any English. Their exchanges are limited to him saying "boom boom boom I want you in my room" and she responds with "you sexy" while slapping his bare ass. This charade carried on all day outside on their balcony for all to see. A little while later, the man staying next door goes to the front desk and says he wants one. 10 minutes later a girl is dropped off and a 3 day binge bender begins for our neighbors. Phuket is something else.

Suddenly walking down the streets in Phuket all I can focus on is the vast amount of men. Dirty men with one goal in mind. I'm exhausted by the old white man/young Thai women dynamic that has defined Thailand. It was then I decided I can't live here anymore. It was bad in a Korat, but Phuket is the Mecca of Thai/foreign prostitution. This wasn't my reason for leaving Thailand, but it was the tip of the iceberg.
After much deliberation (Should we move somewhere else to teach? Where? Should we just travel? Where? Should we go back to the US? And live where?) we decided to move to our favorite city of Hoi An, Vietnam. There are a ton of language schools in a Danang so work should be easy to find. Flights booked, visas rushed, we are headed back to Vietnam.
Farewell Thailand!

pulling into Phuket

pulling into Phuket

Our last sunset in Thailand...it was a beauty

Our last sunset in Thailand...it was a beauty

Posted by inbetweendreams 06:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Maya Bay Sleepaboard

The gem of Koh Phi Phi

The only reason we went to Phi Phi was to do the Maya Bay sleep aboard trip and luckily that did not disappoint. Zach and I have read the book The Beach as well as seen the movie, and we are borderline obsessed. The thought of living in a paradise camp like that is The Dream. So when we heard a boat that docks in Maya Bay (where the movie was filmed) overnight we had to do it.

The website describes the trip as such:

Each year hudreds of thousands of day-tripping tourists converge on Maya Bay – the small tropical island where the movie The Beach (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) was filmed. Tourists arrive by sailboats, speedboats and longtails – all hell bent on capturing that perfect photo of paradise. It can be a disappointing experience for many, however, there’s now another option – the Maya Bay Sleep Aboard tour. Join other like-minded travellers for an unforgettable overnight experience you will recall with a smile for the rest of your life.
On the way to Maya Bay, the boat will make a stop outside the Viking Caves, followed soon after by a snorkeling, swimming and kayaking session. Fresh fruit is served for afternoon tea and there’s drinking water also available.
We arrive at Maya Bay before sunset and transport everyone over to the beach by small boat or longtail. Then it’s time to sit back, relax and watch as the area becomes clear of all the day-trippers. Our boat is the only one allowed to stay on shore past sunset.
Take time to connect with your fellow travellers in an area set aside for our group only. There’s music, light, games and mats to sit on. Our staff will then serve a delicious and tasty dinner. After dinner everyone gets one free bucket. For those who enjoy a drink, there is a bar
Then the party kicks off for those who wish to socialise, or you are free to wander along the tranquil and isolated beach maybe take a swim like the Leonardo did in the movie or do some star gazing. Around 9pm a tasty chicken barbecue is served and the fun continues. After supper, many people choose to take a late night swim in the tranquil waters. If the conditions are right you will experience the amazing bio-luminescent plankton.
At around 12 pm everyone heads back to the boat. Sleeping bags, pillows, and mattresses are provided and you can choose your sleeping spot. If it’s raining you can move inside the boat, or there is a covered outside deck. Our crew will wake you bright and early the next morning for another trip back to the beach for free time and our traditional group jump shot (so bring your camera). We serve a breakfast back on the boat which consists of coffee, tea, eggs and toast. After breakfast there’s an opportunity to take a quick swim and then it’s time to head back to Phi Phi Don.

The above does a great job of summing up the trip. The snorkeling was insane, I've never been fully surrounded by so many colorful fish. There were literally thousands, it was a surreal experience.
When we first arrived to Maya Bay there were hundreds of people on the tiny beach. I felt bad for them, they were going to have to leave soon and never get to experience this ridiculously gorgeous bay without the boats and people.
We brought along a bottle of Sangsom and watched a beautiful sunset. By the time the sun melted into the ocean, the beach was deserted except for our group of about 15. We joined the rest of the group and continued drinking and having a generally good time. They served a delicious dinner of Penang curry, veggies, and rice. Afterwards we played cards, drinking games, and started a dance party. I can't even describe the feeling of being one of 15 hanging out on this pristine private bay.
Back on the boat, we grabbed some snorkel gear and jumped in the water to swim with the Plankton. It was like watching an underwater firework show. A must see!
We set up our sleeping bags on the top deck and slept to the soothing sound of waves crashing against the bay. We had an awesome time and it was one of the highlights of our trip so far.

the boat

the boat

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Snorkeling

Snorkeling

The colorful fish

The colorful fish

Pulling into the still crowded bay

Pulling into the still crowded bay

I ran into my friend Maddy from my TEfL course, small world!

I ran into my friend Maddy from my TEfL course, small world!

Swimming in an empty bay

Swimming in an empty bay

large_IMG_20140420_173558.jpgpulling into Maya Bay

pulling into Maya Bay

I

I

selfie time!

selfie time!

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Dinner5

Dinner5

Amazing late night chicken wings

Amazing late night chicken wings

Sleeping conditions. Not posh by any means but it's all about the experience

Sleeping conditions. Not posh by any means but it's all about the experience

Morning coffee

Morning coffee

Woke up to an empty Maya Bay

Woke up to an empty Maya Bay

Our Beach group

Our Beach group

Posted by inbetweendreams 03:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Phi Phi=Overrated

I hate Koh Phi Phi. I'm disgusted by it. I'm sitting in my grimey hotel room scared to touch the floor because of the lobster sized cock roaches roaming the tiles. And we even splurged on what we thought was a decent hotel! May as well have stayed in a hostel or a guest house.
I don't want to travel to places where the locals are completely jaded by tourism and Koh Phi Phi embodies that. The tourists here also seem like the arrogant ignorant type that are only here for the selfies and the Facebook updates.
Unless you are 22 years old looking to party, don't bother with this island. And honestly if your 22 looking to party, mom and dad better give you a big budget because this island ain't cheap. Or if you can afford to splurge on the resorts on private beaches away from the grunge and mass tourism of the main town then that is ok. But it's so expensive, there's better islands to see where you get way more for your money.
We left Koh Jum by private long tail and arrived into the main harbor of Phi Phi absolutely littered with boats and people. I will admit the water color here is something else, it's a turquoise pendant or a topaz ring, but it's hard to appreciate with all the boats, congestion, and people trying to sell you shit. I agree, twenty years ago this island would have been something else, but now ICK.
I'm sure lots of you will absolutely disagree with my negative view of the island, but that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Our friendly long tail driver leaving Koh Jum

Our friendly long tail driver leaving Koh Jum

Ahoy

Ahoy

Pulling into Koh Phi Phi. Yes the water is fabulous

Pulling into Koh Phi Phi. Yes the water is fabulous

drink on koh phi phi...yeah yeah it's beautiful BUT...

drink on koh phi phi...yeah yeah it's beautiful BUT...

Swimming. What you don't see is the massive crowds to the right and left of where I am.

Swimming. What you don't see is the massive crowds to the right and left of where I am.

Posted by inbetweendreams 02:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Koh Jum Take Two

I fell so hard and fast in love with the island of Koh Jum I couldn't bring myself to leave. We were out of the baht we brought for our few days on the island and our bungalow didn't take credit cards. We were forced to check out of our paradise and upgrade to a resort on the island that accepted plastic so that we could extend our stay, We moved to Koh Jum Resort and I fell in love all over again with a different part of the island. Jungle Hill was beautiful in its own rustic way, this resort was more of a conventional jaw dropping beauty. I liked them both in their own way but instantly adapted to having a pool. A beautiful infinity pool no less. The resort offered a clear view to Koh Phi Phi. It was so clear you could faintly make out details on the island and bon fires at night. I didn't think it was possible but the beach at our new resort was even better then Jungle Hill. The water was six different shades of blue, varying based on the suns position in the clear sky. The waves were calm and there were barely any rocks so we were able to swim for the better part of the day before the tide withdrawals.
Our bungalow was right over the water and had a boat feel to it. It's going to be hard to pull myself away from here. Here's to hoping I don't max out my credit cards:)

Our bungalow

Our bungalow

View from the beach to the resort

View from the beach to the resort

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our bungalow bed

our bungalow bed

relax

relax

there he is

there he is


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Posted by inbetweendreams 01:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

We found heaven on Koh Jum

Koh Jum is a tiny island off the coast of Krabi. It is very undeveloped and can be compared to the Thailand of 20 years ago, before the tourists ruined it. I got that impression immediately upon stepping off the long tail boat to a deserted beach with bungalows built into the hillside. You could barely even see they were there unless you were looking for them. We took the Koh Lanta ferry from Krabi Town, which literally stops in the middle of the ocean and is met by long tail boats picking up guests for Koh Jum. We stayed at a rustic little place called Jungle Hill Bungalows and it will always hold a fond place in my heart. We had such an amazing 5 days defluffing there. My mind, body, and soul have literally never felt so good. I didn't even know I had it in me to allow myself to relax like that. Our first morning we went swimming on the private beach and it was one of those "pinch me, did I just die and go to heaven" moments. The water was that perfect crystal blue that only seems to exist in photoshopped pictures. The sand was powdery soft and flour white. The consistency of the water felt like silk. It very may rank as number 1 in my all time best ocean swimming moments. Even further adding to the effect, there were a pack of monkeys playing in the trees next to the water. It was such a surreal experience, I'm smiling just remembering that blissful moment.
Unfortunately in the afternoons the tide would go out and the beach would become dangerously rocky. We got into the routine of swimming in the morning and relaxing in the afternoon. Basically just laying in the hammock on our porch, listening to Jack and absorbing all the beauty that surrounded us. One day we rented a motorbike to tour the island but there really is not much to explore. There is only one road and only a small portion of it is paved, so if you are a motorbike novice it's not a good idea to rent one here. There's really not much to see anyway. It was quite an adventure navigating the dirt and rocky roads. There are no tourist shops, bars, minimal restaurants, there's not even an ATM! Koh Jum is a place purely to relax and rejuvenate. It was perfect for us and if we didn't run out of the money we bought (remember there's no ATMs) we would have stayed for weeks.

Transitioning from the ferry to long tail mid ocean

Transitioning from the ferry to long tail mid ocean

Pulling into Jungle Hill

Pulling into Jungle Hill

Beautiful beach

Beautiful beach

The roads of Koh Jum

The roads of Koh Jum

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The makings of a great day

The makings of a great day

swingers

swingers

view from our balcony

view from our balcony

our new friend

our new friend

swingin

swingin


large_IMG_20140417_173233.jpgchildren playing

children playing


the beach bar literally built on top of rocks

the beach bar literally built on top of rocks


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Posted by inbetweendreams 01:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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