Archive | March, 2017

Thailand: Bel and Bam

23 Mar

I met Bel/Hen in Bangkok where we rented a scooter.

Typically in Thailand, tourists either go North or South. We found out where Thai people go on vacation: West. So, like Fievel (Thai-vel, if you will), we headed west to explore various villages and National Parks.


And away we went! Headed towards adventure!!



Perks of a scooter: spontaneous roadside stops! This was a market outside of a temple.



Safety first. Markets second. Temples third.



Getting pampered by daily Thai massages.


We stopped in the quaint town of Amphawa, famous for its floating market and natural congregations of fireflies. There, we accidentally drove our scooter onto a single-lane, rickety pier. Thankfully, a lovely group of Amphawans helped us to retrieve it just before it (we) fell into the dark, murky water.  And then, for less than 15 dollars each, we hired a private boat to take just us down the river at night where we watched thousands of fireflies illuminate bushes like perfectly decorated Christmas trees. It was one of the most magical experiences of our lives. Truly unforgettable.


Two Amphawara’d Women on a floating market  #imwithher

The next morning, we had a traditional Thai breakfast complete with Thai specific Heinz products (go Pittsburgh!) before walking the pier on foot. While laughing and chatting, we were swarmed by a pack of wild dogs who barked and nipped.  Fun fact:  the guide books for Thailand warn about the wild dogs of Amphawa. It became clear that being stuck on a narrow boardwalk with a wild pack of dogs is a great way to face your fears. #yolo

Additional fun fact: the temples in Thailand (and Cambodia, but not Vietnam) sparkle.

From there, we continued on our journey to Erawan National Park to see gorgeous, seven-tiered waterfalls that contained wonders at each layer: monkeys running wild, massive fish eating dead skin off of our feet, majestic birds flying overhead, and humans (us) being constantly awe-struck by Thailand’s natural beauty.


Wild, Wild West.


Repping the Arcade Comedy Theater! And hats!


Free pedicure.



We went hiking and exploring in the bush.



Entrance to the coolest, most chill ferry boat ride. We drove the scooter onto the ferry which only departs once it is full. Set your watch to that!



We pulled over for gorgeous views.



And woke up in incredible locations.


Thanks to the luxury of our scooter, we were able to stop whenever we felt like eating Thai food (always) or ice cream (always) or if we thought a place might have air conditioning (rarely). We even stopped for karaoke and butchered some Thai pop songs. The sun is unforgiving in Thailand and our scooter offered us no protection. Nighttime driving was the only thing scarier than the threat of sunburn.

In our experiences, one of the telltale signs of a developed nation is the availability of ice cream. Stay with us. The logistics required to send frozen food all over a country and the security of guaranteed electricity to keep it frozen to then sell to customers, all adds up to a well-oiled network of infrastructure. Ice cream was everywhere in Thailand. Quality, delicious, frozen ice cream. Even the tiniest roadside stands and gas station houses always had a massive selection. We tried them all in every shape and flavor.



Pad Thai for breakfast. Best phone case ever.



City of Nice People!



A sugar-cane drink stand.



Drinking that sweet sugar cane. Yummmm!



AdventureSam in the wild! New blog cover photo.



Traveling and taking in the sights.



Stumbled upon this view after visiting a temple in a cave.



Chasing waterfalls.



Thailand’s currency is the Baht. We spent most of our many hours on the scooter singing Baht-based puns. Here are some standouts:

You’re Unbahtlieveable
I Wanna Dance with Somebahty
MMMBaht (for the Fansons)
Started at the Bahttom Now We’re Here
I Like Big Bahts and I Cannot Lie by Sir Mix-a-Baht

Ready or Baht, here we come,
Behl and Bahm

Thailand: I Think We’re Alone Now

14 Mar

Rachel left Chiang Mai and I stayed, ready for some alone time in one of my favorite cities in the world.  I stationed myself here for almost a month; re-connecting with myself, my health, and preparing for upcoming travels.


Chok Dee Guest House: a private room costs $3.50 a night and comes with a fan, allegedly clean sheets, a shared bathroom, a rock hard bed, and a rock hard pillow…my favorite!



View from my gym.  I spent lots of time here using the elliptical, weights, and occasionally the chlorinated hotel pool. There is an awesome grocery store attached where I ate lunch.  And no, I never joined that sea monster in that green body of water to swim (pictured).



I got in great shape.


Do you know how to say Zumba in Thai?
I took a workout class at my (favorite) gym and it was the only word during the entire hour that I understood.  It’s incredibly humbling to take a Zumba class in Thai.  I felt like I was in a workout bachelorette party with intense high-pitched screaming coming from the other ladies in the class.  Maybe it actually was a bachelorette party and the brides name was Zumba??  I’ll never know.

Another time at my gym, on February 14th, I took a hip hop class.  It was a lonely day and Zumba must have been far enough behind me to have forgotten how difficult it is to take an exercise class in a foreign in language, and not understand what’s being taught.  There were only three of us in the class and they all had, clearly, done this before.  The others were dressed thuggish (I guess this was a literal hip hop class?) and were practicing their moves before our teacher arrived.  One girl yelled in English “We’re all single on Valentine’s Day!” After that, for an entire hour I couldn’t understand what to do nor could I make my body do anything that anyone else was doing.  Three guys stood outside and watched our class, laughing and filming. Here’s an excerpt from my journal: “hahahahaha.  Wow, Sammi.  Did you just figure out a way to make Valentine’s Day worse than usual??”

It was sometime after that when I took a half-day improv class to make friends.  It worked!  After spending a long time outside of class persuading some people to keep hanging out with me, Jake finally agreed.  Thanks, Jake! We went to Maya Mall and saw a movie.  If you’ve ever been to Chiang Mai, you probably know the epic, seven-story-tall Maya Mall that I’m referring to.


Not a single other person in this FREEZING cold movie theater!  But I still stood for the National Anthem (which is played before every movie shown) just in case someone was watching.  #youneverknow


In Thailand, I got massages everyday and saw many movies.  I tried to fill my days with things other than eating.  My favorite theater only played one English speaking movie per week that rotated every Thursday (except, of course, when it didn’t rotate) but there were other theaters in the area showing English speaking movies.  And yes, I’m still talking about Maya. Spending that much time in that mall took me back to trying to be cool in middle school. #stilltryingtobecool #nevertoolate


I ate great cooked food once a day and the rest of the time I ate fruit, which, if I’m honest, was also great.


Mangosteen = Heaven.   I devoured three a day whenever I could find them.  Google says they taste like a combination of strawberries, peaches, and vanilla ice cream.



Traditional Northern Thailand Soup.



Granola with avocado, mango, strawberries, and dragonfruit.


One time, for dinner, I was peeling and eating boiled quail eggs (#healthy) when I got a piece of shell shoved underneath my thumbnail.  I didn’t think it would be a big deal but every time I tried to extricate it I pushed it farther and farther under my nail.  It became very painful.  Here’s another excerpt from my journal from that night:

“I spent about an hour soaking my thumb in water, using my other nail, and finally upgrading to tweezers, to try to remove this quail egg shell.  It keeps breaking off making the piece lodged underneath my nail smaller, but still stuck.  I googled ‘I have an egg shell under my nail.’  Top answer: ‘Get. It. Out.  The body does not like foreign objects.’   Even in a foreign country the body does not like foreign objects!  This tiny itty bitty piece of shell is defining my evening. ”

In the end, I got a knife from the kitchen, used soap, and literally had to cut myself in order to get it out.  Through the blood, I dug out that quail eggshell.  It was super painful and I was incredibly relieved (after it was out) that I didn’t have to go to the doctor for a local anesthetic.

I slept soundly that night, feeling self-sufficient.  Being healthy can be dangerous.  I didn’t eat eggs for the rest of my time up north.

Chiang Mai was what it always is for me; healthy, holistic and delicious.  And I found out that in Chiang Mai, CMU stands for Chiang Mai University — not Carnegie Melon University which is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A thing that reminded me of home but then actually end up being completely different.  #travel

I’ll see that city again soon.
Strong gym vibes,

Thailand: My, What Big Ears You Have

7 Mar

There are two species of elephants: the Asian Elephant and the African Elephant. Yinz get one guess which ones I met while in Thailand.


Elephant crossing.

The Asian Elephant is characterized by smaller ears and (allegedly) friendlier personalities.  The two distinct species are not genetically able to crossbreed…yet. Fun fact, elephants are pregnant for two years! It takes six trimesters to cook a baby elephant!

Elephants are intelligent, sociable, and emotional; the way an elephant herd grieves, with tears and bereavement, feels relatable and humane.  Elephants are enormously (enjoy the pun) expensive to care for, feed, and maintain.  Tragically though, when kept by humans, elephants are often found in inadequate conditions and forced to make money by logging trees in brutal conditions or by being subjected to cruel training practices in the name of tourism.  To further complicate matters, there is currently not enough habitat to release all of the creatures held in captivity into the wild, nor could most of them survive out there on their own.

I know what you’re thinking: Could elephant tourism be ethical and used to off-set some of the costs of care required to maintain these incredible mammals?

Answer: Yes but, unfortunately, this is rare.  Rachel and I wanted to support an ethical sanctuary.  We did some research and chose one to visit that seemed to treat their (only) rescued elephants with kindness; balancing the needs of elephants with the needs of tourists.
Warning: Riding elephants should always be completely off limits as this does damage to their spines!


I’m talking about the (pink) elephant in the room.






“Now time for a silly one!” – My new friend


When we arrived, we got to feed dozens of elephants literally hundreds of bananas (all wrapped up, with the skin on) and tons of sugar cane (all crunchy, with the bark on).  It’s insane how much elephants eat!!  They are insatiable!  We shouldn’t say ‘eat like a pig’, we should say ‘eat like an elephant!’
Their noses are interested and inquisitive; always exploring, sniffing, actively checking things out around them, and bringing food into their mouths (while their humungous bodies stay put) — so, so curious!  It’s endearing and adorable. Elephants use their trunks to get answers while their bright eyes flash.



Nom nom nom nom nom!


Occasionally, the elephant’s nose would find me and ‘kiss’ me on the hand or neck.  This felt really good but also, simultaneously, slimy, wet, and gross.  Is it embarrassing to admit that an elephant’s kisses have given me goosebumps?!?!
I loved it.


Dirty but sweet — elephant snuggles!

Later in the day, Rachel and I went on a river-raft ride and felt like we were in National Geographic!   Elephants calmly drank and bathed, spraying water on each other as we floated by.  So beautiful.  We slept the night in the sanctuary and in the morning were awakened by elephant noses, trumpeting in the background.  It was sensational.

In conclusion, elephants are wonderful!  Spending a couple of days with them at the sanctuary, looking deep into their soulful eyes, and being around their curious personalities was fascinating and I’ve developed a further appreciation for these kind giants.

If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of captive elephants, here is a fantastic, worthwhile website to visit, find out more information, and donate:
Grey on gray,


Thailand: Hello, Welcome!

1 Mar

Rachel and I spent almost a week in Bangkok.




View from the back of a Tuk Tuk.  Traffic and horns everywhere!


Remnants of Tét — but most of the places we visited were gloriously open and unaffected by the holiday.


The old King of Thailand had recently died, we learned, and the country was in the midst of a year of mourning.  His son, who has “a bit” of a playboy reputation, had replaced him on the throne.  I won’t post the photos because I didn’t take them, but Google image “King of Thailand, jeans” — it’s the first three pictures that come up.  Yup, that’s him! The one in the white crop top.

Rachel and I saw a stand-up comedy show (in English) at The Comedy Store.  So fun and funny!   Will definitely go back.  And afterwards, we headed to Soi Cowboy, specifically Cocktail with some Germans, for a very memorable night.


Classic Khao San Road with cheap pad thai.



A place with a misnomer.  Nothing erotic happened here!  It’s a beauty salon with an unfortunate name.  They charged me $10, spent 5 hours on my hair, and a did a fantastic job.  The beauticians and I hardly spoke because (clearly) there was a language barrier but I left feeling happy and wanting to come back the next time I’m in Bangkok.



So many crazy chip flavors!!  I tried them all.  My favorite:  Wasabi, Sushi, and Shrimp Tempura.  Rachel’s favorite: Wasabi, Potato chips that come with their own package of dipping ketchup, and Korean BBQ.   Neither of us liked the Crab flavor.



A pretty scene from a day trip we took to Bridge River Kwai.  Not so pretty, though, is the railways’ past.  During WWII, Japan constructed the railway line using POWs and Asian slave laborers in atrocious conditions.  Thousands of laborers lost their lives and the tracks are now known as the Death Railway.  We also visited the War Cemetery nearby where around 7,000 POWs are buried.



About a week after arriving in “The Land of Smiles”, we headed north to Chiang Mai.  This was my second time visiting Northern Thailand.  Here’s a link to the first visit.


We rented a scooter (not a motorcycle) and headed to Pai.


They drive on the left side of the road in this country.  A fact I audibly kept reminding myself every time I got back onto our bike to be the driver. “Left side.  Left side.  Left side.”

The road to Pai is an adventure in itself!  A winding, shaded, gorgeous route that I had the fortune of traversing twice during this trip; once as the driver of an adorable scooter and once, a few weeks later, as a passenger, hanging onto the back of a large, loud, fast motorcycle.



Stunning scenery on a roadside stop.



Spicy, delicious soup.



The most chickens I’ve ever seen riding a moped.


On a whim, Rachel and I took a detour from the main road to Pai to see a geyser.  The side trip road was unpaved and thus took us awhile to arrive (I’m a careful driver. Some might say too careful on gravel.), but it was worth it — not only because it was gorgeous — but also because I got to do something I’d never done before!

We paid the park fee and parked our bike near the entrance of the geyser just as we saw a sign in English that read “Egg Boil” with no other explanation.  Rachel and I stopped abruptly in our tracks to discuss what the sign could possibly mean.  Could we really cook eggs inside of the geyser?!!  Where would we buy eggs?!

The ranger hadn’t spoken any English when we checked into the park, so we knew he wasn’t going to be any help.  We looked around and saw, directly across the road, a lady who we thought we could ask.  As we got closer we saw she was selling eggs!  Oh happy days!

She sold two types of eggs: quail eggs and brown chicken eggs, both accompanied by small bags of pre-portioned soy sauce that had clearly been bought in bulk and then hand poured into tiny clear plastic bags sealed tightly with rubber bands.

Of course, the woman selling eggs didn’t speak much English.  Nor should she have to!  It was on us to speak Thai.  And we, embarrassingly, couldn’t do that so we just took a chance and bought heaps of eggs.  Worst case scenario?  We’d have a bunch of raw eggs.  Best case scenario?!  We’d get to cook these eggs inside of a geyser!!!

We picked out ten speckled quail eggs and four large brown chicken eggs, all of which came with soy sauce and were sold to us in clear plastic bags, the likes of which offered no protection for the eggs’ fragile bodies.  We took extra care not to break them.

The woman cryptically held up five fingers at the ten quail eggs and eight fingers at the four chicken eggs.  Hmm.  Rachel and I looked at each other confused (like you must be) and shrugged it off.  Numbers must be different in Thai.  We handed the woman a bill (which she gladly accepted), said a hearty “kapunka”, and walked away, taking care to continually support our precious, breakable cargo.

What was going to happen??!  This was so exciting.  Rachel and I started walking down the path.  Everything we saw we thought “Maybe that’s the geyser?”.  Simmering mud full of steam.  Was that it?  We stopped to discuss and decided to keep walking until, eventually, undoubtedly, we came upon a body of water that had to be the geyser.



Rachel patiently waiting for breakfast.


It was so cool!  I mean hot!  As we approached, the vapors hit our faces and we both knew that this was it.  The liquid bubbled, gurgled, and popped as we read a couple of scattered signs in English detailing the exact temperature of the water but said nothing about cooking eggs.  We waited to see if anyone would show up that we could ask.  No one did.  So…should we just throw them in the water??  How would we get them out?

Rachel and I deliberated on this point as we looked around, saw egg shells scattered on the ground, and found bamboo poles with woven containers on the end!  These were what was used to cook the eggs!  Mystery solved. Yay!

We grabbed a couple of bamboo rods, placed the eggs carefully into the baskets, and eased the bamboo poles into the fresh, natural, boiling geyser water.  How long to put them in?  We thought back. The five and eight that the Thai woman had indicated must be for minutes!  It clicked, that was how long to keep the eggs submerged in water!  I set my timer and we both sat down to watch a pot that was already boiling.  This was so great!  Egg boil in the wild!!  The five minutes took forever to pass and when my alarm finally did go off, we pulled the bamboo baskets containing small, speckled quail eggs out of the water.  I was so excited!!!  Did this work?!  We eagerly tried to peel the eggs but they were still boiling hot to touch and after burning all of our fingers, we were forced to lay the bamboo poles on the ground and let the eggs cool.  Three minutes later, we also extricated the more familiar, brown chicken eggs from the boiling water and laid them onto the ground to join their counterparts.



Quail eggs, chicken eggs, and more quail eggs, too hot to touch.


When we couldn’t stand it any longer, we started peeling eggs, pouring bulk soy sauce onto them, and taking hearty bites of still hot, fresh eggs.  They were delicious!!!!!  The best eggs I’d ever had! Rachel too, and she’s a chef!  Really incredible. And the soy sauce was great!  Salty and a nice touch, a trick I still use to this day.

As we were leaving the park, immensely satisfied, we saw a hidden sign that mentioned that the queen had been here and had also cooked her own eggs.  “THE QUEEN HAS BEEN HERE!”  Don’t bother Googling pictures of the Queen…there are no fun crop top pics.

We were full and elated with our spontaneous detour as we countinued back on the road to Pai.



Mountainous beauty.


Because we had made so many stops, we didn’t actually have that much time to spend in Pai itself, which was fine.  We were able to squeeze in another hike (see photo below) and get a sampling of other things Pai has to offer (read: food).  We went out on the town that night and slept near the soothing river.



A hike in scenic Pai canyon.


There was a welcome coolness to the air, a marked difference from the heat in the south.  Rachel and I woke up early the next day to get a head start on the journey back into Change Mai, relishing how easy it was to get around in Thailand and (still) appreciating how little things were affected by Tét.


A chilly, wonderful morning.


We made it safely back to Change Mai with more (big) adventures to come.