Riggins, Idaho: Population 413 

Nestled deep inside a canyon along the famous Salmon River is the small town of Riggins, Idaho. Once known as “Gouge Eye”, It was named by the local miners who came to the area in search of gold, after a gruesome fight broke out at a saloon and a man lost his eye.

Riggins is famous not only for its pristine landscape but also for hunting, sturgeon fishing, and whitewater rafting. Close by lies one of North America’s largest gorges known as Hells Canyon, featuring the stunningly daunting Seven Devils Mountain Range. People travel to this small town from all over the country just to experience the outdoor recreation and beautiful scenery it has to offer.

My boyfriend has family in Riggins, so I’ve had the opportunity to visit multiple times. It’s definitely an everybody-knows-everybody kind of town. Let’s just say that the first time my boyfriend introduced me to the family, we spent the evening at a quaint little bar, drinking and chowing down on some of the best pizza I’ve ever had…and I ended up having a little too much to drink. The next day, half of the town had heard about how I gracefully knocked a barstool over and threw up in the bathroom all night. What a lovely first impression, Chanel.

Our latest trip to Riggins was the best one yet. We spent an entire day whitewater rafting and swimming in the Salmon River. The next day we drove up the mountain to Seven Devils so we could hike around and enjoy lunch in the bed of a pickup overlooking the entire valley. Later that evening, we took flashlights down to the river to look for garnets. In one area known as “Ruby Rapids”, they were literally falling off of the giant basalt boulders that were scattered along the riverbank. My pockets were overflowing with the tiny, maroon gemstones that I dug out of the dirt all on my own – I left one happy lady that night. It was definitely a weekend for the books.





Safe Travels, xx

Skinny Dippin’ Blue Lake

Growing up in Idaho was exceedingly boring. I was raised in the suburbs and It wasn’t until I graduated high school and moved to Boise to start college that I began to realize everything I took for granted when I was younger.
Idaho has a strong presence of wilderness and some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever laid eyes on. You can drive an hour or so from Boise in any direction and either be in the middle of the mountains, rolling fields, or endless deserts filled with ancient lava flows and some of North America’s tallest sand dunes.

Hiking has become one of my favorite hobbies. I’m nowhere near an advanced hiker and I have yet to go on a backpacking trip like I’ve always dreamed of doing. But lucky for me, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to retreat to the mountains for a quick hiking day-trip and I try to do so as much as possible.

One of my favorite spots is Blue Lake, located about 2 hours away from Boise. It’s classified as an easy trail, making it perfect for beginners or families with young kids. A mile hike down the mountain side, surrounded by colorful wildflowers and lush greenery, eventually leads you to a pristine alpine lake. The trail offers easy lake access and is a fantastic place to fish – they bite like crazy in the evening. The trail circles the entire lake, making up a total of 3 miles when finished. There are also secluded camp spots scattered throughout the area. It’s seriously a slice of paradise. The lake is deep and crystal clear, making it an ideal place to cool off after the hike down. It’s not uncommon to see people jumping off the small cliffs located alongside the water.

One afternoon, my boyfriend and I hiked down to enjoy a picnic. When we arrived we quickly realized that no one else was there…no fishermen, no campers, no hikers. We were completely alone in the middle of the mountains with the entire lake to ourselves.
So what does one do when that happens? You strip naked and go skinny dipping of course. We ran around nude, cooled off in the lake, then enjoyed our picnic as we watched the sun set beneath the trees. Best. Day. Ever.

Oliver wanted his bum in the photo too!

It was probably my most memorable hiking experience to date. I felt so carefree!
If you’re ever alone in the wild like we found ourselves that day, I encourage you to let go of your ego. Strip down to your skin, push the boundaries of society, and embrace your body the way it was created! In nature, you are nature. So, surrender to the beauty around you and liberate yourself.


Safe Travels, xx

Sacred Ink Part II

When I first learned about this traditional form of tattooing, originating as far back as 2 thousand years ago…I was completely fascinated. I knew immediately that I wanted a Sak Yant on my body forever. Not only to commemorate my love for Thailand, but also because a part of me is superstitious and truly believes in the powers of these ancient tattoos. I mean, who wouldn’t want something that holds so much historical significance on their body?!
You can read all about my first experience here.

Ajarn Neng is one of Bangkok’s most famous Sak Yant masters. He’s tattooed celebrities and traveled all over the world to perform this sacred technique. I’ve even read that he makes his own ink from Thai herbs! Plus, he has one of the sweetest and calmest demeanors I’ve ever experienced in a person. There was no doubt in my mind that I didn’t want anyone else but him to tattoo me. The only issue for me was the language barrier. Thai is probably one of the most complex languages I’ve ever heard, full of so many different tones and inflections. Making it super intimidating to learn, let alone speak to a famous Ajarn. He doesn’t know much English either, so it made communicating with him very difficult. A lot of it was mostly broken sentences from the both of us and lots of laughing – whether it was at me or with me, I don’t know…probably a little of both sometimes.

Follow my SNAPCHAT @desert_sage for behind the scenes photos of my travels and daily life.

Out of everything I wanted to do in Thailand during this second time around, I wanted nothing as bad as another Sak Yant. After my first one, I officially designated my entire back for these sacred Tattoos. I waited until towards the end of our trip so that I could swim in our pool and enjoy the beaches in Phuket and Koh Sichang.
My cousin and his friend who were visiting also planned on getting one. My brother, being 16, was a tattoo virgin and wanted his first one to be meaningful. A Sak Yant was the obvious choice! It didn’t take a lot to convince my parents to let him get one. Since they dealt with me surprising them with a chest tattoo when I was only 16 years old, they’d rather just give him permission and support his decision rather than be surprised by another unplanned, underage tattoo. (I was such a horrible teenager, but it definitely has worked out in my brother’s favor!) In fact, almost all of my brother’s friends called home and persuaded their parents to let them get one!
I found out later that you usually need to be 18 to get tattoos and Sak Yants in Thailand. But like the drinking age, it varies from place to place and no one asked the boys how old they were (probably because they’re all giants and look like they’re 20 years old) so it didn’t pose an issue for us.

I contacted Ajarn Neng through his Facebook page to see when he had an opening for me and 5 other people. With our appointments confirmed, we left bright and early the next day. There were three other people waiting outside of Ajarn Neng’s home, just as eager to get their tattoos as we were. While we waited, we flipped through a book of designs and picked out what we wanted. Then Ajarn Neng’s assistant gave us each a bundle of incense, had us repeat a Buddhist prayer, and place our burning bundles beneath an altar. My cousin, his friend Kayden, and my brother, along with a girl we met from California were the first to go inside. The rest of us waited out front in the brutal humidity and studied the facial expressions of each one of them as they received sacred stabs of ink into their skin for the first time.

After what felt like forever, the rest of us were finally invited inside. Each tattoo took about an hour or more to complete and by the time it was our turn, we had already been there for a majority of the day. While the boys got their’s done, I sat on the floor and played with their cute chihuahua pups, snuggled with their kitty, and tried petting their (not-so-friendly) bird that was hanging out on the floor next to me. My turn was quickly approaching and the nervous butterflies started to flutter in my stomach.
Ajar Neng’s assistant informed the cute, younger couple who were scheduled to go after me that Ajar Neng was closing soon and they would either have to pick a smaller Sak Yants, only get one of them done today, or could choose to reschedule altogether. Discouraged, they told her that they return home to Europe tomorrow morning and started talking amongst themselves to decide what to do.
I felt so bad for them! I would have been so disappointed if I was in their shoes. Deep inside, I knew what I had to do…so I spoke up and told them that they could go before me because I already have a Sak Yant and I’d still be in Thailand for another 3 weeks. The couple was so grateful and it made me feel good to put the desires of strangers before my own for once.
Ajarn Neng rescheduled me for the next day and wholeheartedly thanked me before I went home, un-inked but still satisfied. I was able to watch my brother get his first tattoo and introduce my friends and family to such an incredible experience. Overall, It was a perfect day. What more could I ask for?

The next day, I dragged my brother out of bed at 8 am so that we could be the first ones to Ajarn Neng’s home. I waited patiently as he performed his morning ritual and prayer while I prepared myself mentally for the pain ahead – I wanted most of my lower back done during this session and knew I was in for an excruciating couple hours. I wanted Ajarn Neng to choose my yants for me, which made it that much more special. He picked the lotus of success and another yant for good fortune.
I spent the next 2 and a half hours sitting on a pillow in front of Ajarn Neng, hunched over. I don’t know what was more uncomfortable…my legs going numb, being hunched over for almost 2 hours straight with only a couple of breaks in between, or the giant metal spike being tapped into my lower back. Probably a combination of all three.
He kept reminding me to repeat a familiar phrase in my head that was meant to help me focus – “sothaya” “more pain, more power”. He ended the session like he always does by blessing my new tattoos, sprinkling water over me, and then blowing on the tattoos to instill them with power. After champing through the pain I had an intense adrenaline rush. We sincerely thanked him and I went home that day with the biggest smile on my face.

When our time in Thailand was coming to an end, rather than rushing to do everything we hadn’t had the chance to yet, we instead spent a lot of time at home, around our neighborhood, and our favorite local spots. It was bitter-sweet. We were incredibly sad to leave, yet excited to get home to friends and family. The day before we left, my brother and I decided to go back to Ajarn Neng for a last minute session. My brother got another Yant added to his arm and I got my shoulders and neck done. By the time we left Thailand, I had more than fulfilled my ultimate desire to get another Sak Yant…in fact, almost all of my back is complete just like I envisioned and they’re more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed of! All I need is more added to the lower sides and then to fill the spaces in between.

So, until next time, Thailand! Sothaya and Sawasdee ka.

Safe Travels, xx

Khao San Road


“Pussy ping pong?” “You want pussy ping pong?” These questions still ring in my ears.
As I entered Khao San Road, I was bombarded by men standing around holding signs soliciting “performance acts” one would only see in the craziest porno that you may or may not ever want to watch. Unimaginable things were listed like pussy ping pong, pussy light cigarette, and pussy open soda can.
At first I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of these women doing such things. But I wasn’t exactly surprised by it either. Weird encounters and sights like this becomes the norm when you’ve lived in Bangkok for a while and it’s one of the many attributes that makes this city so (in)famous. It’s just something you should expect to stumble upon at some point during your visit and always makes your night a little more interesting. I always try to remind myself, you’ll never see that on the streets back home (thank god).

Photo Apr 18, 9 34 28 AM

Khao San Road is lined with stands selling clothes, street carts offering delicious Thai food and not-so-appealing fried insects. After a long night of drinking, a few of us ended up gaining the courage to try fried scorpion. They taste like extra salty chicken but I was definitely not a fan of those crunchy, little legs. 

Flashing neon lights from bars and clubs line the entire street. By 10 ‘o clock on a Friday night, it’s absolute madness. There are people of all ages, from 8 years old to 80 years old trying to persuade you to buy their handmade bracelets that say an assortment of dirty phrases on them – I ended up getting “I love bang cock” “I love ladyboy” and “I love jizz salad” (I was extremely intoxicated when I bought them).
There is a night club around the corner from the bar we like to sit at that has a cover charge of 300 baht, if I remember correctly. Like clockwork, every night around 11 people start to gather in the street outside of the nightclub and create a party of their own. Dancing, sipping on buckets of alcohol, smoking banana leaf cigars, meeting new people from all over the world – this is what made me fall in love with Khao San. I was the girl in the blue tie-dye skirt, hair dripping wet with sweat, dancing her drunk little ass off in the middle of the street by herself. With no regrets.

We did end up buying tickets to the club one night.
It was a really cool inside but the drinks were more expensive and I preferred the dance party outside, so I mostly used the club as a way to cool off from the humidity and heat when I needed to.

One thing I learned while partying in Khao San…don’t trust the Thai people. It seems contradictory since you’re visiting Thailand, and it might just be from personal experience, but I learned the hard way. Just meet other foreigners while you’re there, unless you already have local friends that you trust. You’ll enjoy yourself a lot more when some Thai person isn’t trying to steal your phone (true story), lure you into an alley way to sell you coke (also true story), or just try to exploit the fact that you’re a foreigner and rip you off.
I was there with my friends from the Philippines who have lived in Bangkok for years and they warned me ahead of time of scammers and thieves. But one of my first nights partying there, I made friends with a Thai girl. We all talked and danced together for a while, until I noticed she started following us around like a puppy dog. At one point, she came up to me saying someone stole her phone and needed to look in my purse to see if I had it. My friend’s demeanor immediately changed and he got really mad, yelling at her to leave and go tell the police if she thinks her phone was stolen. Minutes later she brings a police officer over to me, trying to persuade him to let her look in my bag for her phone. Luckily, my friends speak Thai and was able to smooth the situation over. The cops deal with scammers like this all the time, so he ended the situation immediately and that girl didn’t bug me for the rest of the night.

Don’t let that story throw you off, I love Khao San. I even bought a shirt that says so. I went to Khao San probably a good 7 or 8 times during my visit because I just couldn’t get enough. I never visited during the day but I know that there are little shops all over, places to get Thai massages, tattoo parlors, and restaurants. It seems like a nice place to spend the day before a long night of partying.
If you’re going to Bangkok to have a good time and experience the nightlife, then Khao San is a must. Stumbling back to our place at 4 a.m. and waking up the next day hungover, reminiscing with everyone over a greasy breakfast about what exactly happened the night before are some of my favorite memories from this trip.


Safe Travels, xx

Koh Sichang Island

If you’ve been reading along since the beginning of my adventures in Thailand, then you already know that I’ve traveled to Koh Sichang and written about it before. Since I had my cousin and a friend visiting us for two weeks and my brother had three of his friends staying with us, I thought that visiting the island would be a perfect way to show our guests what it’s like outside the city, without the headache of traveling too far outside of Bangkok and also staying on a relatively cheap budget.

Koh Sichang is located in the Chonburi Provence of Thailand. It’s about a three hour bus ride from Bangkok to the town of Sriracha. From there you grab a tuk-tuk to the pier and take a 30 minute ferry ride to the island. While waiting for the ferry to arrive you have the option to explore local vendors and visit a Chinese Buddhist temple nearby. Koh Sichang is small and you’ll mostly encounter local fishermen and shop owners. In fact, there were probably only a handful of tourists like ourselves on the island.

I learned my biggest lesson about Thailand during our trip to the island.
Thailand is always changing. Never expect what you experienced the first time around, because more likely than not it won’t be the same, for better or for worse.
The mysterious, little, green island I expected to be greeted by was dry and partially burnt this time (due to the drought and a fire that had recently broken out on the island). The island was smoggy, in fact all of Thailand was a lot more smoggy than it was during my first visit. The waters were no longer the crystal clear blue you envision when you think of Thai beaches. Much of the town looked a lot more run down than I remembered. Even my favorite banana pancakes from a local restaurant had been modified from their original fluffy, chunky goodness to a flat, crepe-like version. It was a valuable lesson, to always expect the unexpected in Thailand and be prepared for things to not go exactly according to plan.
Regardless of the changes, it made this trip unique for me. Rather than just acting as the tour guide for everyone who hadn’t been there before, It was almost as if I was visiting for the first time. And I left with brand new memories and experiences that I will treasure forever.

My brother, asleep during the long bus ride to Sriracha.

Me and my brother during the bus ride.

Me and my brother during the bus ride.

We had about an hour until the ferry was due to arrive so we made our way to the temple to kill time. Walking up the steps, we were greeted by a group of kittens and their mama. We all split up to explore by ourselves. I was busy taking photos when I hear “Chanel, look at Chris”. I turn around to find my brother’s friend with blood pouring down his face. He somehow managed to snack his head on one of the enormous temple bells that were hanging right in front of him and slice his forehead open. I was freaking out – it took a lot of time persuading my parents to let us adults take my 17 year old brother and his friends with us to the island. I was responsible for 4 teenage boys and we hadn’t even made it to the island yet, before shit hit the proverbial fan and someone got hurt! Chris was very calm and reassured me that he was fine, then asked me to take his picture. One of the temple caregivers kindly bandaged his forehead while a monk ironically just sat in the background and laughed. Come on, OMboy. No one would be laughing if you cracked your head open.
Soon after the ordeal was taken care of, we made our way back to the pier and boarded the rickety old ferry for our island destination.

Chris’s bloody forehead. SCARED ME TO DEATH.

One of the nice men at the temple who helped bandage Chris’s forehead.

After docking on Koh Sichang, we were immediately bombarded with locals asking if we wanted a tuk tuk ride or to rent their motor scooters.
Scooters are the best form of transportation on the island. You can drive around the entire island in probably an hour, that’s how small this place is. But we decided to wait until we got to our bungalows to rent ours from the owners.
I rented our rooms from Booking.com and decided to stay at Charlie’s Bungalows. This was my second time staying here, and I loved it so much the first time that I didn’t even bother to look at renting other places. It’s cheap, the owners are friendly, it’s conveniently located in the middle of town, and you can rent your transportation directly from them. The bungalows are small and humble, with not a whole lot to them amenity-wise…but in my experince, you aren’t coming to this island for a relaxing, pampered weekend like our stay in Phuket. You’re coming to explore, eat delicious local cuisine, visit temples, ride motor scooters all day, go snorkeling, get chased by monkeys, cut your feet open on coral, and (in our case) spend the evenings getting really drunk on Sangsom.

I was starving, so before we even made it to the bungalows I stopped by the “Pad Thai Lady” who was cooking my favorite Thai dish on the side of the street. This Pad Thai was different than any other I had eaten before. Of course, like all Thai dishes, there is variation to them everywhere you go in Thailand. It was a really small portion (like 4 bites small), made with glass noodles, and had the tiniest, crunchy baby shrimp sprinkled on top. You’d have to taste it and had to of eaten many different Pad Thai dishes to understand the difference I’m talking about, but it was so good I had to go back for seconds (and thirds and fourths).
We stocked up on water at the local 7/11 store, changed out of our sweaty clothes and into our swim suits, then got on our motor scooters to head straight for the beach. There’s really only one beach worth visiting – Tham Phang (Collapsed Cave) Beach. It’s on the other side of the island and has a restaurant and snack bar right next to it. We were still hungry from our three+ hour journey and couldn’t wait to eat. I ordered Pad See Ew – don’t let the name throw you off, it’s actually delicious. It’s similar to Pad Thai in that it’s a noodle dish, but made instead with much thicker noodles and generally has broccoli along with other veggies added to it. This one was made more like a soup, with a delicious gravy broth added to it – Yum.
We enjoyed our first official meal on the island as we watched the sun set over the ocean and took a quick dip in the water after dinner. Then we made our way back to the bungalows, where we drank too much and laughed way too loud until 2am.

The next day, our only full day on the island, we started off by eating breakfast at a place I had visited on my previous trip to the island. A little restaurant called “Food”, located on the front porch of someone’s home. They serve American and Thai food. I ordered the banana pancakes, a fresh banana smoothie, and a side of French fries (don’t ask me why, I just had a weird craving for ketchup). I love this place, It’s so adorable and quaint. This sweet old women and people who I assume are members of her family, cook up the meals right in their own kitchen.

The whole town is so vibrant and colorful!

The whole town is so vibrant and colorful!

After breakfast, we rode around the entire island to get a feel for everything. The boys were driving so fast, they almost crashed into some wild boar that can be seen roaming all over. We had bought snorkeling gear earlier and found a secluded spot to swim at. I noticed the coral was super sharp and there was broken glass everywhere, so I advised everyone to keep their shoes on when getting in the water.
My brother’s friend, Brooklynn, took his shoes off and jumped straight into the water without thinking. Bad decision, dude. He immediately sliced both of his feet open, probably on some coral. Oh dear lord, not another injury already. The cuts were super deep but he seemed fine once the bleeding stopped, until about 5 minutes later…when his normally tan skin turned completely ghost white. He decided he wanted to lay down, so half of our group rode with him back to the bungalow.
My brother, cousin, brother’s friend, and I stayed behind to ride around the area some more. After a while of doing that we went back to town to see how everyone was doing. We were greeted by my cousin’s friend, Kayden, who had a frantic look on his face. He said that he just got done taking Brooklynn to the local hospital and needed to grab his passport for him!
We immediately drove to the hospital. We waited in the lobby and played with a cat – yes, a cat just chillin’ inside the hospital. While they bandaged his feet up and gave him a shot of something, no one knows what. It cost him something like 200 baht total, which is about $5. I laughed as the Hangover 2 movie quote ran through my head – “8 stitches, it only cost $6, how is that even possible?!”
Then we took the poor kid back to the bungalow to rest, where he threw up violently a few times and then finally felt well enough to eat something and relax for the rest of the night.

The way Kayden is looking at Sean cracked us up!

The way Kayden is looking at Sean cracked us up!

While he rested, we decided to stay away from that part of the island and go to the original beach from the day before, to snorkel and swim before it got dark on our last full day on the island. There’s nothing to crazy to see, little fish swimming here and there. Apparently the spot we were at is the best place to snorkel, and you can even swim a few minutes to the tiny neighboring island if you dare. But we decided to play it safe.
After swimming, we drove up to Buddha’s Footprint. We stopped to admire a group of macaques that were eating on the side of the road. So cute. Until I got a little too close to one while taking photos and the thing full on charged at me while I ran away screaming like a little girl. Other than traffic accidents, monkey bites are the second most common reason people are sent to the hospital in Thailand…I think we had our fair share of accidents during this trip already. Luckily, the beautiful, panoramic views of the island and the fact that we had Buddha’s Footprint entirely to ourselves made up for my almost-dangerous encounter with the vicious monkey.

The group made our way towards the Chinese Buddhist temple, Saan Chao Pho Khao Yai, located inside a cave on the Northern part of the island. Two friendly dogs even hopped on some of our motor scooters to accompany us for the ride. The pack of soi dogs who live at the temple weren’t too happy that we brought our canine friends into their territory…but we shooed them away and our little Labrador friend even followed us up the giant steps into the temple. It was completely empty – most likely closed for the night. But we went in anyway.
We admired the magnificent statues, views of the harbor, and wrote wishes on the left over strips of red paper that are meant for visitors to write blessings onto before taping them to the cave walls. There is something about being alone inside these sacred spaces that is so enchanting. I’m glad we got to experience this temple when it was devoid of any other humans besides ourselves – only the presence of ancient spirits, bats that clung to the roof of the cave, and the wishes of thousands of visitors who came before us fluttering in the island breeze.

One of our pup-friends who tagged along for a joy ride.

To end our night we ate at a restaurant called Pan & David’s, which is one of the more expensive restaurants on the island. I ordered their cheese and pickle platter and a delicious tuna melt. Then, after dinner we had a few drinks under the warm, island moonlight and reminisced about our adventures before resting up for our long journey home.

I’ve attached a video montage from Youtube that I made of our latest trip to Thailand. It highlights our flight there, Songkran water festival, and our journey to Koh Sichang. Enjoy!

Safe Travels, xx

Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is world famous for its glamourous resorts, crystal clear beaches with lush cliffs that protrude straight out of the water, and a prominent nightlife scene. Making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand.

If I could sum up our trip to Phuket in three words they would be: Relaxing, overly-intoxicated, and a bit unfulfilling.

We booked a hotel at Marriot Mai Khao Beach Club, and it. was. wow. Actually it was a free stay at the resort thanks to my dad and mom, who sat through a three hour timeshare program…I’m telling you, as annoying as they sound, never pass those things up! That’s how we were able to experience Phuket for so cheap and also how we discovered Sedona, AZ (one of our favorite family vacation spots in the West).
Anyway, the resort had it all. Really nice sized rooms with a tranquil master bathroom. Along with two incredible pools that came equipped with a slide for kids, scuba diving lessons for beginners, and a giant projector screen for poolside movies in the evening. The entire strip of Mai Kao Beach is designated for resort goers only, so it was never crowded. Happy hour was from 6 – I don’t even remember what time. (Hence why I used overly-intoxicated as one of my descriptors). The resort was located right by a quaint little shopping complex called Turtle Village, that offered  a 7/11 for all your needs and a range of eclectic restaurants – our favorite was Bill Bentley Pub, because sometimes you just need a juicy burger after eating nothing but Thai food everyday for a month straight.

The only weird thing about the resort was that it was split in two and situated between them were the Anantara Villas, an entirely separate resort, which had a really nice pool and swim up bars that we were not allowed to use. It made it a little confusing at first because you have to walk through that resort to get to the beach.

Speaking of the beach, it was incredible. Granted, it wasn’t the crystal clear beach with towering tropical mountains that you see in pictures, like the famous James Bond Island. But it was quiet and relaxing, with very little people other than fellow resort guests, and it felt like bath water. Extremely salty bath water.
And if you visit the beach at night, dip your feet in the water, and look very closely you’ll see little blue glows from bioluminescent sea creatures appear where ever you move! During the day, there are little huts set up that offer Thai massages and some that sell Thai food. You also have free access to the resort’s paddleboards and boogie boards.

I’m sure you’re thinking, this all sounds like a dream. Why did you add unfullfiling to the list of words used to describe your stay in Phuket? It was a dream. But there is so much more to do and see outside of the resort…like temples, markets, nightclubs, day trips to remote islands, and cave tours. We didn’t have a chance to experience any of that because the head of security at my dad’s work had warned him of some terror threats that had been identified in Phuket. So naturally we all decided it would be safer to stay inside the resort for the duration of our stay.

And though nothing happened while my family was in Phuket, in August there were multiple bombings throughout Thailand, including Phuket, where dozens of tourists and locals were injured and killed. There is no link to Islamic terrorist activity. It seems to be linked to local sabotage, caused by anger about political issues and police forces cracking down on criminal activity. It’s definitely scary, but no need to hault your travel plans to Thailand. It’s just important to remember to be aware when you’re visiting other countries. We live in a time where we should probably stay vigilant a lot of the time, even in our home countries.

Spirit house out front of Marriott's Resort.

Spirit house out front of Marriott’s Resort.

Overall, our trip to Phuket was a dreamy and relaxing getaway from our usual routine in the crowded metropolis of Bangkok. It left me wanting to experience this southern region of Thailand even more.
Would I stay at the Marriott’s Mai Khao Beach Resort again? Hell yes. It was everything people hope for in a tropical beach resort. Not much can compete with being pampered all weekend while staying on one of the most sought after island destinations in the world.
But is Phuket everything it’s cracked up to be? I definitely think there’s a reason why you hear so much about this place. Especially if you know where to go and plan your trip accordingly.
Will I be back to Phuket? Absolutely. There is so much left to experience.

Safe Travels, xx

Temples of Thailand

I was walking down Sukhumvit one day, with my Polaroid camera around my neck, a bottle of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in one hand, and a stick of bbq chicken I just bought from a street vendor in the other. I was headed to one of the local Buddhist temples, Wat Pathum Wanaram, to take photos and spend some much needed time alone. Located in the midst of a bustling metropolis like Bangkok…this temple is a quiet haven where I can temporarily remove my body and mind from all the noise and millions of people I encounter on a daily basis, which becomes quite draining after a while.

I spent a good two hours inside the temple grounds. Taking photos of young monks in training, walking through the lush gardens, playing with the friendly temple cats and dogs, admiring magnificent statues, and hypnotizing my senses with the sweet aroma of burning incense and the ancient chants of the Buddhist monks. It’s always a spiritually rejuvenating experience being there.

As I was exiting the temple gates, I came across a man and women who had a map in their hands and puzzled expressions on their face. They asked me if I knew where Siam Paragon was. I smiled and reassured them that they were only a block away. I also added that right in front of them was a stunning example of a local Buddhist temple – nice and quiet, with few tourists compared to the world renown temples like Wat Pho and Wat Arun that everyone comes to Thailand to visit. I added that if they hurry, they’d still be able to listen to the monks chanting. They thanked me wholeheartedly and we went our separate ways. I ascended the stairs of the skywalk, making my way towards the BTS to return home for the evening. I took one last look at the temple, as it gleamed gold in the setting sun. I noticed the couple that I had just spoken to a minute ago. They had made it halfway into the temple grounds and I watched them turned right back around to exit and make their way towards Siam Paragon. That was irritating to me. Here they are, in the midst of this beautiful, serene gem of Bangkok…something so precious and adored by the locals. Yet they chose to go to the mall instead. There are malls on literally every corner! You couldn’t take 10 minutes out of your evening to experience something that’s truly culturally significant to Thailand? I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and tell myself they were probably just thirsty and exhausted from the heat and overwhelming humidity, though I was still disappointed that they missed out on such a unique cultural experience and a huge part of what Thailand is really all about. (I like to pretend they went back to visit after they rehydrated themselves and cooled off for a while.)

In all seriousness you guys, it doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. If you’re in Thailand, make time to visit the temples (known as “Wat” in Thailand). I don’t care if you go to the well known ones or the smaller, local ones like my favorite Wat Pathum. Just do it, and I promise you that you’ll look back and be glad you did. Buddhist temples and shrines can be found on almost every block. In fact there are over 40,000 temples scattered throughout Thailand and they play such an important and sacred role in the lives of most people living there. It would be a dishonor to their culture to not experience it for yourself. Not only that, but they are among some of the most architecturally stunning and impressive structures you’ll probably ever lay your eyes on. Varying in all shapes, sizes, and architectural styles – they’re ornately decorated in gold and every color imaginable, with fantastic murals covering the walls that depict epic stories of Buddha’s life.

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I’ve put together a list of temples that I personally enjoyed and feel are worth visiting, either due to religious and historical significance or just because the architecture is out of this world, beautiful. I even added ones that are still on my bucket list for my next journey to Thailand.

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) – Famous for being home to a giant 46 meter long, golden statue of Buddha laying on his side, it’s one of the most well known and visited temples in Bangkok.  It’s within a 10 minute walk to the Grand Palace, so you could cross those two temples off your list in one day. It’s also known as the leading school for traditional Thai massages, so take some extra time out of your day to relax and unwind from all that walking around. (Don’t be afraid to skip the neck cracking part of the massage, unless you’re into that sort of thing, it freaked me the hell out).
You will be asked to cover up with one of the robes provided if you don’t dress appropriately. Trust me, been there done that. So that means no knees or shoulders showing.

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) – This temple is easily one of my favorites to visit in Bangkok. It’s so unique architecturally – delicately adorned with colorful glass and porcelain throughout the entire structure. It is located right alongside the Chao Phraya River and is easy to spot. It’s accessible by river boat and many say best time to visit is early morning, although I’m not a morning person and prefer to in the evening as the sun sets and the temple lights up. Again, there is a dress code, like with most temples. So dress prepared or come ready to rent one of their robes or scarves to cover yourself up with.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) – This place is undoubtedly the most well known landmark in Bangkok. It was built in the late 1700’s and was home to the Thai King and Royal Court for 150 years. You’ll walk inside and be amazed at the stunning architecture (as with most temples in Thailand) and if you’re anything like me, you’ll think to yourself “Damn, I wish I lived here.” It’s seriously a dream. The type of palace that you read about Kings and royalty living in, only in fairy tales. Within the palace grounds is Wat Phra Kaew, home to the sacred emerald statue of Buddha dating back to the 14th century.

Lohan Prasat – I have not had the chance to visit this temple, but it is revered for it’s historical value and was even submitted to UNESCO to become a world heritage site, although it has not yet been accepted. It’s known as the “metal castle”, referring to the metal spires that line the entire structure. It’s located right next to the infamous party area (and one of my favorite hang out spots in Bangkok) Khao San Road. So, if that’s the area you happen to be staying in and you aren’t too haggard from your crazy night of dancing, drinking, and whatever other mischief you got yourself into, then you should definitely give this temple a couple hours of your day – I wish I had.

What Mahathat – Another temple I have yet to visit. Wat Mahathat is known as the largest order for Vipassana Meditation. I’m not familiar with different versions of meditating, though there was a time when I took at least 10 minutes out of my day to quiet my mind (I really need to start doing that again). There are classes available in English and it sounds like a really cool experience, so if meditating is something you’re interested in then you might want to add this temple to your bucket list the next time you’re traveling to Bangkok.

Phantom Rung Historical Park – Located in the northeast of Thailand, it’s a breathtaking example of ancient khmer architecture. It was built as a Hindu temple over a thousand years ago at the summit of an extinct volcano!

Wat Rong Khun – This incredible, modern day Thai temple is located in Northern Thailand just outside of Chang Rai City. It’s one I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now, but we haven’t made it up north yet unfortunately. The most striking thing about the temple is that it’s completely white. It’s adorned with Buddhist sculptures rich with symbolism about eternal suffering, karma, and sin. And you enter the temple you must cross a bridge that passes over a pool filled with the hands of damned souls reaching up to grab you. The artist who funded the temple chose to use modern day icons to depict stories of Buddha. I’m talking alien spaceships, Harry Potter, and Superman modern. Pretty wacky for a Buddhist temple, but at the same time oddly intriguing.

Ayutthaya Historical Park – Another one of my favorite places to visit in Thailand! The historic city of Ayutthaya was built in the 1300’s and became the second capital of the Siamese kingdom. The city flourished during the 14th-18th centuries as one of the world’s centers for global commerce. That is, until the city was attacked by the Burmese army in 1767 and unfortunately burned to the ground. People have worked hard over the years to preserve remaining structures and rebuild historic parts of the city based on old maps. It is currently an archaeological site and is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pretty rad, huh?
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Saan Chao Pho Khao Yai – Also known as the “Shrine of the Father Spirit of the Great Hill”, can be found on my favorite little island of Koh Sichang. This Chinese temple sits on the northern side of the island and is predominately located inside a cave. Around the Chinese New Year it draws tens of thousands of Chinese visitors from all over Asia. Towards the back, you’ll find my favorite part of the cave, completely covered from top to bottom with red strips of paper which visitors write their prayers, wishes, and alms onto for the spirits of the temple to hopefully recognize and answer.

Wat Tham Yaai Prik – Another temple on Koh Sichang that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It’s located right by a Giant yellow Buddha statue that peaks through the lush forest and can be seen from the ferry as you approach the island. It serves as a meditation center and hosts over 40 monks and nuns. All around are elaborate murals of decomposing corpses…morbid, I know. But it’s meant to provoke meditation on the thought of death and by doing so you’ll supposedly begin understand the nature of existence. It’s even said that Buddha would ask his followers to meditate in the charnel grounds where bodies were cremated so they could achieve this same understanding of life and death.

Don’t forget to ask around about local temples in whatever area you’re staying in. Sometimes the small, not-so-well-known temples that you don’t read about on websites or blogs are the most rewarding ones to visit.

Safe Travels, xx