RTW Trip Roundup

My year (plus some) trip over three continents has finished and I’m still processing everything I saw and learned! I visited 20 countries in total. Here’s a list of each country with something I will remember about it, as well as a gallery of photos which hadn’t previously made it onto the blog.

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Thailand Roundup

Standing in front of the Namuang waterfall on Koh Samui

Standing in front of the Namuang waterfall on Koh Samui

I spent 74 days in Thailand, which beats my previous record from Bolivia! My budget was all over the place, as food, accommodation, and transport were extremely cheap up north and only  moderately cheap down south, but then I added on loads of scuba diving, some Thai language lessons, a cooking class, and renewing nearly my entire wardrobe. Ultimately I panned out at an average of $35 per day including everything, which still isn’t too bad!

I visited 8 places: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Sukothai, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Khao Sok, and Ao Nang. I absolutely fell in love with Chiang Mai and would consider going back to live there semi-permanently in the future. It’s a bit of a cliched expat center, but for good reason!

I also enjoyed checking out some cool street art and seeing the beautiful coral reefs of Koh Phi Phi. All in all, it was a wonderful 10 weeks!

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Diving at Shark Point and Anemone Reef

The beautiful blue soft corals at Anemone Reef

The beautiful blue soft corals at Anemone Reef

My final day of diving out of Ao Nang I did the “Superday”, which is 3 dive sites in one day: King Cruiser Wreck, Shark Point, and Anemone Reef. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring my camera to the wreck because we went past my camera’s limit of 18 meters, but I did get some good shots at Shark Point and Anemone Reef. The current at the latter site was pretty intense and it was the most challenging dive I’ve done so far!

There were loads of lionfish at the sites as well as more moray eels than I could count. I saw a few barracudas and some pretty big triggerfish. I fell in love with a couple of cube boxfish, which are probably the cutest fish ever (followed closely by the ever-popular clown anemonefish). Most impressive for me though was the sheer amount of bright corals and the variety of color, especially at Anemone Reef. I didn’t think I’d be able to find such a rich reef in such a heavily touristed area. Now I am determined to get off the beaten scuba track to find more pristine dive sites!

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Diving in Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi Leh

A seal faced pufferfish in Mango Bay

A seal faced pufferfish in Maya Bay

I spent a week in Ao Nang and went on several dive trips with Local Diving. The diving here was much better than in Koh Tao, but a bit pricier.

My camera, which broke when I used it in Koh Tao, suddenly starting working again about two weeks later. Needless to say, I was pretty hesitant to bring it out diving again, but gave it a shot since it’s still under warranty. Luckily, this time it held out! I didn’t, unfortunately, bring my camera on the dives where I saw turtles and sharks, nor could I bring it on the very impressive wreck dive because we went too deep.

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Khao Sok National Park and Chiew Lan Lake

A view of the cliffs over Chiew Lan Lake

A view of the cliffs over Chiew Lan Lake

I spent a few days in the beautiful area of Khao Sok, hiking in the national park and taking an overnight tour to Chiew Lan Lake. Despite being a fairly popular destination in southern Thailand, both the park and lake are secluded and relatively untouched. I saw a lot of flying lizards, monkeys, and more geckos than I could count!

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Meditating at Wat Umong and Dipabhavan

A sign in the forest at Wat Umong

A sign in the forest at Wat Umong

I’ve been learning about meditation and Buddhist philosophies for the past few years, but I’ve been struggling to really commit to a meditation practice. I decided to attend a couple of vipassana retreats to learn more and really eliminate all excuses I was making not to do it. While I can’t say that my life is completely changed from the experiences, I did learn a lot about my limits and I have renewed motivation to make meditation a part of my daily life.

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Scuba Diving in Koh Tao

The Yank without a Chain scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

The Yank without a Chain scuba diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

I got my PADI open water diving certification in Turks and Caicos in 2005 and had grand plans to dive all over the world. Unfortunately, for various reasons it didn’t quite work out that way and I only went on a handful of dives before focusing my interests elsewhere. So when I came to Thailand and heard that there is beautiful, cheap diving on Koh Tao, I knew I had to take full advantage of it.

I got a recommendation from a German friend for Crystal Dive Resort, so I booked a few nights there without doing much research about other places. It definitely turned out to be a good choice. The afternoon I arrived I took a refresher PADI course in the pool to review scuba basics like buoyancy, removing your equipment in the water, clearing your mask, etc. Afterward I felt confident to start fun diving.

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