How a Country-Wide Water Gun Fight Made Me Love Thailand

Ok so I didn’t love the Thai islands. It’s true. But northern Thailand was a totally different world. Northern Thailand might have changed my mind about this country.

Chiang Mai Thailand

I flew from Krabi directly into Chiang Mai, and upon arrival, saw the same amount of western backpackers. But this time, it was calm, quite, and they knew how to blend in to a certain degree. It was refreshing, and the Thailand I had wished for.

I was only in Chiang Mai for a few days before the Thai New Year begun, also known as Songkran. And if you know anything about this holiday, you know that I was about to get very wet. What I didn’t know is that the locals decide that three days for the holiday isn’t enough. Songkran was to begin on April 13th, but as I was walking to lunch on the 12th, I realized that the children like to begin the country-wide water fight a day early. So much so, that not even five minutes into my walk, I was already soaked, had to buy a dry bag for my stuff, and joined in on the fun.

Before I had the chance to fill my water gun however, I had heard that khao soi was an absolute must-have in Thailand. And better yet, I heard a rumor that the very best khao soi was in Chiang Mai, so I knew I had to try it. Problem was, the place that I heard about was supposed to be pretty local and pretty difficult to find. After walking around the Old City, I finally came across the spot I had been looking for: a small white tent right next to the temple with a few tables and the menu only in Thai. I managed to order the khao soi and a lotus root juice in broken Thai, sat at a table next to some locals, and enjoyed one of the best (and cheapest) meals of my life.

So if you’re ever in Chiang Mai and want the best khao soi, head to Khao Soi Khun Yai on the north side of Old City. Look for the white tent behind the temple walls. And get ready for some of the best food in Thailand.

Songkran

Ok so back to the Thai New Year. This might be the absolute greatest time of the year in Thailand. What began with a cleansing of the Buddha statues throughout the country to begin anew turned into a country-wide water fight. If you’re lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai (or anywhere in Thailand) in mid-April for Songkran, here’s what you need to know:

Water guns?

Be prepared and buy water guns early. You can get them at Big C Supermarket or on the side of the road around the time of Songkran. If you do get them along the road, you can most likely bargain and get the price down a bit. But it’s important you buy them before Songkran begins because prices will absolutely skyrocket. Get one with a big water chamber because, while you can find places to fill up, some places will charge you or you will be filling up with the dirty moat water (which is a whole other topic).

Which city?

Chiang Mai is known to be the best place for Songkran in Thailand, and most of that is because of Old City. The Old City of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a wall and moat with gates at each end. And every side of Old City is definitely a different type of party.

East Side:

East end is where almost all of the tourists/Westerners go to party. This is where you’ll find the pool parties, the bars, and the crowds. It’s a great time to spend a day and you’ll meet a ton of people. But remember, it will be filled with people just like you, so while you’ll definitely have some fun, this isn’t where you want to be if you’re looking for the local-version of  New Years.

North Side:

North end of Old City is a good mix of both local and tourists. The most traffic is along here so the streets are packed with cars and crowds walking amongst them. There are a ton of street food vendors and some good music. Most of the Thai young adults hang here, so if you want a good local party without completely standing out, this is the place to be.

South Side:

South end is the quietest side of Old City during Songkran. This is mostly the side of the city that the cars can pass on without having to get stuck in traffic. While it is quiet, you’ll definitely still get wet walking along the streets here so don’t think you’re escaping the fun.

West Side:

My FAVORITE side of Old City was the West End. After partying on every other side of Old City, I had met a local friend at the hostel I was staying at that recommended I go to the west side. She let me know that I would be the only foreigner but promised it would be the most fun. And she was 100% right. Not only was I the ONLY foreigner but the locals welcomed me with open arms (and water guns filled with ice water). If you really want to experience the real Songkran, do NOT miss heading to the west end.

So yes, while the Thai islands didn’t win me over, the happiness I experienced during Songkran in Chiang Mai is something I will never forget. However, all good times come to an end, and it was time for me to head to Bangkok.

I’m Not a Backpacker; I’m Just Traveling with Backpacks

Quick note before I begin this post: This might be a little bit of a rant and I apologize beforehand. If you refer to yourself as a backpacker, if you are obsessed with the Thai islands, if you overly love to party, etc. be ready to be slightly offended. But it’s time you realize something, so read on.

Ok let’s get started. Unpopular opinion coming atcha. I HATED the Thai islands. Ok, hate is a strong word. And the Thai islands are some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. So maybe the word “hate” is a little much. But the Thai islands proved everything I had expected to be true about Thailand.

Let’s rewind a bit. I’m living in Indonesia. I had just come from Singapore and Malaysia and had a blast. And was falling in love quickly with the Asian culture. To be honest, when I was leaving Malaysia, I was absolutely not looking forward to Thailand. To me, Thailand has always seemed like a played out, overrun tourist destination for full-moon parties or honeymoon resorts, and that’s just not my style. But, as I was just an hour flight away, I knew I had to see it for myself to hopefully prove me wrong. I knew there was so much more to this country than what I was thinking, or so I hoped.

However, when I arrived in Krabi, I was greeted with everything I hated: loud Westerners with no regard for a new culture, already drunk, with 2+ massive checked bags a piece, and looking for the closest party. Major eye roll. Yea I know, if you’re reading this and you’ve been to the south of Thailand, you’ll say “Obviously Paige, what did you expect?” But I had hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as I’ve heard. Man, was I wrong.

Now listen. If you are looking to party with a bunch of fellow white, English-speaking people in gorgeous places, by all means, visit the Thai islands. But what I noticed was that the culture I fell in love with was missing from the second I landed (It also might’ve not helped that I almost didn’t land. Long story short, we hit a really bad storm; lightning hit the wing; we tried to make an emergency landing; the wind was too strong and right before we landed, the pilot had to go full-throttle straight up to avoid crashing; one of the flight attendants was crying; and I was ready to leave Thailand before I even actually got there. But I’m alive, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice).

Ok ok I’m done bashing the islands because I’m being cynical and totally didn’t hate them that much. I had a really good time to be honest. But there is one thing I realized about myself when hopping from island to island:

I am absolutely not a backpacker.

backpacker

Yes, I’m traveling with two backpacks and may look like one. But for the first time, I really was forced to spend time with the “backpacker” type. You know, the one that hasn’t showered for two days, isn’t wearing shoes, already has a beer (or two) in hand, and somehow manages to talk about the number of countries they’ve ever been to and how they’re “like sooo powerful man.”

I’ve learned a ton of patience while traveling. And I’ve learned that I have zero patience while traveling. Years ago, the backpacker term was truly that: stuffing your life in a bag and exploring a country as it was meant to be seen, leaving nothing behind. I don’t know if I’m just old now that I’m thirty but holy shit is this not the case anymore. These “backpackers” as they refer to themselves might travel with a backpack but they leave trash everywhere, they refuse to learn the local language, they get absolutely pissed drunk, are the loudest in the hostel, and expect everyone to love them.

But I’ve realized that while all of my belongings fit in two backpacks, I will never call myself a backpacker. While I haven’t showered in two days, it’s because I have been so busy hiking or exploring the city I’m in that I crash right when my head hits the pillow on my hostel bed. While I may not get the pronunciation correct, I’ll do my best to only speak the local tongue when I can. While I may like to have a few beers, I know my limit and know that I’m not in my own country and need to show respect (and know my way back to the hostel without stumbling around).

So if you are a “backpacker,” please be more self-aware. Please learn to respect a culture and blend in, not stand out (in a rather embarrassing way). And for god’s sake, it’s a 45-minute boat ride from island to island. I promise you, you don’t need to slam 10 beers before you get to the next stop.

On that note, I’m grabbing my two backpacks and softly saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry” in Thai behind every one of these “backpackers” to show not all of us are like that. I promise.

48 Hours in Singapore: The (Almost Missed) Visa Run

Day 58. I was cutting it close. After missing my first flight to Singapore…

Wait, quick side note. So I had my first visa run flight booked before I even got to Indonesia (since I had to have proof of departure for the type of visa I was applying for). Fast forward two months, and I was sitting on the beach with friends on my little island when my phone dinged. I looked down at it to a reminder for “Flight to Singapore in 10 minutes.” I laughed, took another sip of my Bintang, and sat back. I didn’t want to leave yet anyway. Ok ok, back to the story…

I knew I couldn’t miss this one. I had two more days until my Indonesian visa ran out, and it was either pay a ton of money and sit in Denpasar for a week or take a little weekend trip and just get a new visa when I flew back. Obviously, I was way more intrigued by a good adventure.

Plus, how can you beat the equivalent of a $20USD flight to Singapore? You can’t.

I always wanted to see Singapore, but it never truly was an option until I was on this side of the world. Forget the expensive flights there from the States; the country itself is pretty damn expensive. But with some good options for hostels and neighborhoods like Little India to save me some money, it was the perfect fit for my visa run.

And even better, Singapore is a city/country that you can totally see a good portion of within 48 hours. So if you find yourself on that side of the world with a long layover, here’s how you can extend it and see some of the best of what Singapore has to offer.

Friday

I landed around noon. If you get in earlier and you have time, explore the Changi airport. It’s one of the coolest airports I’ve ever been to (I mean, there’s a badass spiral slide in the airport. Take a moment and be a kid again). Once I got settled in my hostel and unpacked a little, I knew I needed a late lunch. First thing I did was head to Clarke Quay to check out the river and grab a beer.

This may be the most American (or Irish-American) thing I’ve ever done, so for what comes next, try not to judge.

In Indonesia, we have Bintang for our beer of choice. I love it. But it’s a light lager, nothing special. After a few months, I really started to miss a good dark beer. Along with that, I was living on rice and noodles every day, and there was nothing I was craving more than melty stringy cheese.

The second I stepped in Clarke Quay, I forgot all about trying local food, spotted an Irish pub, and beelined it. You better believe I got the cheesiest mac and cheese and the best pint of Guinness I’ve ever had in my life. So if you’re looking for that, or if you’re just looking for a good meal, head here and walk around to explore a little. Clarke Quay is pretty mellow during the day, so be sure to go back at night for a good time, especially on the weekends.

After Clarke Quay, I took a walk down the river down to the Marina Bay Sands area. It’s a bit of a walk but the views are absolutely stunning (and there are a ton of bars along the way to stop and hang at). Famous for its architecture, be sure to take time to just be in awe of some of the buildings here, both old and new. It was time for dinner and a show so I grabbed a quick bite and waited for the Marina Bay Light Show.

There’s two ways to do this show so I recommend saving time to do it two nights you’re there. Here’s why. I personally like the view on the west side of the bay the best. It’s the side that you can see the brightest view of the laser light show, and it’s spectacular. The second night, head to the east side, right in front of the Marina Bay Sands for the fountain and music show. Both views are amazing, but they are truly two totally different experiences, so I wouldn’t miss either.

Saturday

I knew this was my only full day in Singapore so I wanted to make the most of it. And damn, did my legs feel it. I woke up as soon as the sun did and headed straight to the Gardens by the Bay. If you don’t know what this is, or haven’t seen the famous trees in Singapore, here’s a few photos to entice you to visit. This was by far my favorite place in Singapore. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say I spent the better half of an entire day here. I’ll let the pictures do it justice (or not, because nothing except seeing this in real life will do it justice).

Get here first thing in the morning if you want to do the suspension bridge with as little people as possible. I was the third person on the bridge for that day, and it couldn’t have been more peaceful and beautiful.

Take time to explore the two conservatories, one dedicated to saving the forests and animal conservation and the other dedicated to almost every type of flower in Asia. Neither conservatory is better than the other; just make it easy on yourself and don’t force yourself to choose; do both.

After I explored the Gardens by the Bay a bit, I headed to Kampong Glam to get a taste of the famous Muslim Quarter and was more than pleasantly surprised. After taking a few shots of one of the most picturesque mosque you’ll ever see (all the Aladdin vibes seriously), be sure to walk around, shop and eat. Anything and everything is good here. And don’t forget to check out the incredible street art. But if you do want a good spot for both beer and food, head to FOMO (seriously, or else you’ll totally have the fear of missing out).

After I stuffed myself full of falafel and hummus and margaritas (don’t judge the combo here), I headed back to Gardens by the Bay to see the trees at night. And let me tell you, this is absolutely something YOU CANNOT MISS (I know I know, I keep saying that, but everything in Singapore is pretty incredible). Once the sun goes down, the trees sparkle along to music for a one-of-a-kind light show. Get there early, grab a seat on the floor by the center tree, lay down, and enjoy! Best part, you can do this AND the Marina Bay fountain and light show the same night; just head over to the Bay right after the trees. One of the best nights of my life!

Sunday

My flight was leaving at 12pm out of Singapore so I had time to squeeze one more thing in and that was Little India. This is a neighborhood you’ll just want to explore, grab amazing Indian food for cheap, and see brightly colored buildings all around.

Singapore is a city/country that turned from a visa run spot to one of my favorite places I have ever been. It’s a city so filled with culture, so advanced in technology and architecture, so environmentally conscious, that there truly is something for everyone there. So be sure to extend that layover and step into the future!

Featured Travel Interview: From Married To Morocco

It’s been such a whirlwind of a month. I never thought moving to Indonesia for any amount of time would ever happen but it did and now I can’t imagine ever leaving.

Life changes a lot. Within one day, your entire path can switch. And that’s happened to me quite a bit lately. I went from living in a beautiful apartment with a great friend just a block from the beach to staying with my mom and dad every night to help my mom take care of my dad who could no longer do every day tasks alone. I went from having my father as one of my best friends to losing him completely. I went from casually dating someone I thought I knew for so long to engaged and then to not even speaking a word to each other ever again. And I went from creating a home with that person to selling all of the belongings that I could and taking a chance in Indonesia.

Life changes. Sometimes for better or for worse, but all you can do is embrace it and make the best of it.

I’m trying to make the best of it.

And from this, I am extremely humbled and thankful to know that others have seen that I am just trying to do what is best for me.

With that, I am thrilled to be able to share my very first featured interview as From Married To Morocco with Tripoto. Thank you again, Tripoto, and I’m so humbled and stoked to be able to share my story with all of you as well as the Tripoto family!

What If I Left… What Would Be Left? Overcoming My Fear Of Travel

This is a tough one for me to write. But I began writing to inspire females—especially single traveling females—to not be afraid, to stand up for themselves, and to find themselves again after whatever it is that pushed them down, that made them fear. So here goes nothing…

For me, I had two major events that created that distinct fear of travel: I lost my father to brain cancer, and I discovered the person I once loved was no longer the person I fell in love with. All within eighteen months.

father_daughter

The first was obvious. He was sick for just over fourteen months before we lost him. I was traveling when I found out he was diagnosed. And I had a major solo across-the-world trip booked but had to cancel it when it seemed we were about to lose him. Travel was everything in my life, and was a big part of my discovery and my healing. But suddenly, the trips that I had booked to enjoy myself and discover new passions now had a sad memory forever attached to them. It was the first time that had happened, and frankly, it began to make me terrified to travel again, especially alone.

What would have happened if I was alone snowboarding when I found out about my dad, instead of with my best friend? What if I had left for across the world right before my dad suddenly passed? Being so far away from family suddenly felt all too uncontrollable.

Not to mention my anxiety had taken over when I did travel, whether for work or with friends.

Will my phone work?

Am I connected at all times?

Can my family get ahold of me?

Is everyone okay?

Am I okay?

Do I have insurance?

Is someone close by for my mother if I’m gone?

I had gone into this severe state of worry and couldn’t let go. Every time I got a text from a family member or my phone rang, pure panic rushed through me remembering the text from my mom that day:

“Where are you?”

There I sat, enjoying a drink at one of my favorite bars in downtown Breckenridge.

I text back confused, “I’m in Colorado, mom. You know that. What do you mean?”

“Can you call me?”

I walked outside, called, and dropped to the ground that was covered in fresh powdered snow. A beautiful scene turned into a disgusting nightmare. My dad was perfectly fine when I left. Now, I was being told he was going into emergency surgery and that I would be going straight to the hospital as soon as I landed back in Florida.

I never wanted that feeling again—the feeling of being however many miles away not being able to do a single thing. I felt selfish for being away from my family. I felt a lack of control. I felt my first fear of traveling.


The second was a bit harder. Not long after my father died, I got engaged. And to be honest, I don’t remember it. I was still in a fog, going day to day, quiet, not opening up, unsure of how I felt moment to moment. Looking back, of course I wish I had said no. But it was a comfort at the time, and I thought it’d maybe take my focus off things. It didn’t, and it just made it worse.

For months after that ring was on my finger, I still wasn’t myself. In fact, I was worse. I broke down a lot. But we traveled—me mainly hoping that the adventures would take me out of my state of mourning and would bring joy to my life again. First, a road trip around Ireland. Then a boat trip throughout Miami. Then San Francisco. Then Montreal. Then Cuba. Then NYC. The traveling brought more and more joy to me. But with each trip, the person traveling along side of me brought more and more pain.

More fights. More anger. More of his dark past being put on me. More of the loss of my father being put on him. It went from disagreements to screaming, to storming out of the house, to holes in walls. And then eventually, to bruises on me.

I thought I had met the one, so I figured once my mourning had passed, all would be good. I mean, we traveled together and that’s what I wanted, right? I had found a partner that shared my one true passion, who was hardworking and driven but wasn’t afraid to see the world. What I didn’t know was that all of that was more shallow than I thought. That the values, the beliefs, the family, the friends, the life I wanted and longed for were no longer there. The traveling was covering it all up. My fear of travel started to set in again.

Was I traveling to run away from the fear of what I had to experience at home? Was I traveling to hide the fact that I was so unhappy—hell, terrified—to be with this person? That coming home every day scared of what would happen next could be solved by distracting him and myself in a brand new city to explore?

I held on, I made a promise that day I said yes. But the love was fading away fast. I felt guilty for always wanting to explore. When he refused to go on trips longer than a week, I felt trapped because of the anger I knew would come at me if I went with anyone else and because of the jealousy I would get if I went out alone. I felt trapped because the life I wanted to live, mainly moving out of South Florida to explore something new, was no longer an option as I slowly started to sink into the life he had settled into.

I was terrified to travel once again.


Fishing_Mahi_Lobster

I’ve come to peace with the loss of my father. And don’t get me wrong, the pain of losing him will never go away. But he is the one that sparked my love for travel. I have him and my mother to thank for taking me on all those trips to go explore. I have him to thank for getting me out on a boat to fish, to find my love of the sea and of adventure.

He wanted me to travel. He still does, because I know with each new place I discover, he’s with me there as well.

When I realized that I was the one who was choosing to be held down by fear—fear of losing someone else in my family, and the fear of the person who was supposed to be my partner—I realized only I could do something to overcome it.

As for that relationship that was killing my single greatest passion, I got over my fear of walking away and giving up. I got over my pride to stay and fix something I knew was far too broken. I stopped crying myself to sleep out of fear of him. I let go of the weight on my shoulders of canceling a wedding. I found myself again, and found what made me happy. For the first time in a long time, my soul felt at ease.


In just three short months since then, I’ve explored one new country on an entirely new continent for me and explored three brand new cities in the country I’ve called home for so long. My fear from travel is gone, and I’ve fallen in love again.

And now, it’s time to call a new place home for awhile. In three short weeks from today, I’m making the change I’ve always wanted to make but was held back from doing for so long.

I’m thrilled to announce… I’m moving to Indonesia!

Nusa_Penida_Island_Indonesia

If you’re interested to find out more about what I’ll be doing over there, to follow along, or to help out with my efforts, you can learn more here.

 

Click here to HELP SAVE THE SEA TURTLES!

A Solo Female’s Journey from Casablanca to Marrakech

Last I wrote to you guys, I let you know there was more to the story than just Casablanca and my fears the day I arrived in Morocco. A lot more.

It has been a very hectic and exciting last month. And while I didn’t mean to take forever to catch you up on the whole trip through Morocco and what I loved most, the exciting news that took over all of December was well worth it (you’ll find out more soon, and soon as in less than a month—I promise not to slack off this time).

Morocco was more than I could ever have imagined. But what I realized is that there are few words that will truly explain the beauty that is North Africa. And what better way to fill in that lack of words than to put together a quick highlight video for you of my road trip from Casablanca to Marrakech and everywhere in between. Check it out!

And read about some of my favorite spots and tips below, not if, but when you decide to visit Morocco for yourself.


Casablanca

You won’t need more than a day here unless you want to spend an extra day at the beach. While Casablanca has some beautiful views of the ocean, there really wasn’t much here to explore. However, if you do make it to Casablanca, do NOT miss out on the Hassan II Mosque. It is what architecture dreams are made of.

Hassan_II_Mosque_Casablanca

Tip: If you are a solo female, don’t be afraid to walk alone here. While you do have to be VERY prepared to be hollered at and catcalled, ignore it, keep your chin up and forward, and be brave. I never felt unsafe here, even at night. If you do choose to take a taxi, be aware that many taxi drivers only spoke Arabic so know where you are going before getting in the taxi.

Meknes/Fès/Volubilis

These stops were some of my favorite of the trip. One of the best views you’ll see is at Volubilis, the ancient Roman ruins. Make it a quick stop, but not before exploring the ruins, taking in the sites, and standing over what was once thought to be Hercules’ bedroom.

Volubilis_Roman_Ruins_Morocco

In Meknes, be sure to explore Heri es-Souani, Moulay Ismail’s granaries and stables. Another incredible architecture site, these stables were home to over 12,000 horses.

Heri_es_Souani_Meknes_Morocco

As for Fès, this is a city you absolutely cannot miss. From mosaic shops to the tannery, there is no shortage of color and life here.

Fes_Tannery_Morocco

Tip: While in the Fès medina, be aware that you will get very easily lost, so if you can find a reputable guide, do it! As well, hold on tightly to your purse or personal belongings. While the people of Morocco are incredibly nice and caring, the tight quarters and large crowds in the medina are a recipe for pickpocketers.

Merzouga/The Sahara Desert

Sahara_Desert_North_Africa_Morocco

The Sahara Desert is where my life changed forever. I know, I know, a bit dramatic. But it’s really no exaggeration. You will NEVER experience something like camping in the middle of the Sahara Desert with a few new friends (along with a few new furry camel friends, too).

Camping_Sahara_Desert_Morocco

I went at the beginning of November and the weather could not have been more perfect for camping here. Just be sure to bring a jacket and thick socks for when the sun sets. With the cold sand between your toes, you’ll have the chance to take a break from technology, and take in the insane beauty of the rolling golden dunes lit up by the full moon.

Sahara_Desert_North_Africa_Morocco

Tip: I am beyond thankful to have partnered with G Adventures to take a caravan out into the desert to camp beneath the stars. You’ll have an incredible adventure this way, as they organize the camel ride and campsite for you, supply an amazing authentic Berber meal, and even provide a little entertainment in the form of hookah and drums 😉 Could not recommend them more if you’re looking to have the time of your life!

Todra Gorge/Ait Ben Haddou

Be ready to walk! For both these locations (which are both ones you really shouldn’t miss), you’ll be hiking quite a bit, so wear your most comfortable shoes. If you love rock climbing, Todra Gorge is your little slice of heaven in Morocco. If you’re not a rock climber, don’t be afraid. There is a well-paved road to walk along and still take in the sites.

Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a must-see, but you won’t need more than a day here. Explore the kasbahs and see where movies such as Gladiator were filmed. Along the drive from here to Marrakech, you’ll travel through the Route of 1000 Kasbahs and through the Hollywood of Morocco, passing by quite a few movie studios and sets.

Tip: I would definitely recommend staying at Hotel Amazir near Todra Gorge. Not only did they have some of the best tangine that I had the entire trip, but come on… look at this view!

Todra_Gorge_Morocco

Marrakech

Marrakech_Sign_Morocco

If you’re going to stay at any of these places (besides the Desert), stay in Marrakech the longest. I was a little let down that I didn’t save enough time on my trip to truly explore Marrakech for all it’s worth, as I only had two days there. The medina alone could take an entire day to explore!

Tip: Save all your shopping for Marrakech. You’ll find the best bargaining and best prices in the medina here. Just be aware that the shop owners will be quick to charge you far above local pricing. For example, one bracelet I bought, the owner was trying to charge me the equivalent of $55 USD. I left with it at the equivalent of $6 USD, and probably could have gotten it lower. So be ready to haggle! A LOT!


Morocco was one of the most exciting and interesting countries I have ever been to! Planning to go? Feel free to ask any questions, and I’ll be happy to provide any information that I can (hotels to stay at, restaurants in the area, etc). And if you’ve been to Morocco or any of the cities mentioned, I would love to hear what you enjoyed most!