Category Archives for "Thailand"

What’s It Like Celebrating Songkran in Chiang Mai Thailand?

About a month ago, while I was in Koh Lanta, Thailand and hanging out with some new friends Ian and Veronica from Freedom Podcasting, they told my girlfriend Samantha and I that we should come back up to Chiang Mai for this “water festival”.

I didn’t know anything about it, so when I got home I looked it up to see what it was all about.

Here’s what I came across… what is Songkran?

“Behind the façade of a nationwide water battle comes however a more deeper meaning: Thais traditionally sprinkle the water on one another to give positive blessings and wishes. Furthermore, they get rid of all possessions which brought bad luck the past year and to create New Year resolutions. The word Songkran comes from Sanskrit and means ‘to move forward’.

The Songkran festival is the traditional Thai New Year’s Day and is celebrated from 13 April to 15 April.

….and then I came across some pictures of it..

songkran water festival

Sam and I didn’t really have anything to discuss after seeing some of these pictures, it looked like one of those “once in a lifetime events” and I am so so glad that we decided to head back up to Chiang Mai for the Songkran Festival this year.

So it’s been about 2 weeks now since the Festival ended and I still grin to myself thinking about the event.

It was 3 days of feeling like you were living in a real life video game.

90% of the people you would come across on the street had super soakers.

Every turn you took, you had the chance of getting water dumped on you or being ambushed by a car driving by that was loaded with people who had buckets of water and were ready to soak you.

Songkran guy with bucket and dog

haha this dog and his owner were just chillin in the back of a truck with BUCKETS of water…

Songkran Festival

Getting around was really fun though, here’s a picture from one of the rides into the “fight zone” area around the moat in the center of Chiang Mai. As you can see, no one was safe. We were shooting people walking down the street, and they would shoot us whenever we stopped in traffic.

A lot of the times people would dump a bucket through the window of the Songthaews (red trucks for transportation) and EVERYONE inside would get soaked.

Other times, we would be walking down the street just chatting and you’d see some older people just casually chatting and hanging around…. one second they look like they didn’t see you and then the next second…. BAM you’re covered in a bucket of water.

…oh man it was an unreal experience.

Songkran Festival Chiang Mai 2016 Songkran Festival Chiang Mai 2016

There were many times throughout the 3 day festival where I would stop and have a water battle with a 5 or 6 year old kid.

One second we would be shooting each other and then the next we would high five each other and then I would let them shoot the water guns we had. (Ours were spray painted GOLD so everyone would comment on them)

Songkran Festival Thailand

Yes…. GOLD guns.

What is it like celebrating songkran in thailand Songkran 2016 Chiang Mai Chris Hughes

 

I think it honestly was one of the best ways to get immersed in the culture out of anything I’ve done.

If you think about it, shooting someone with some water is such a weird way to start a conversation, but it was amazing how many people we got to meet because someone would spray someone with water and then it was on.

Even with the language barriers between the locals and us, being English speakers, we still were able to communicate and share some laughs (along with some broken Thai and English)

I could honestly write 3 separate blog posts about everything that we did each of the days, but you would be so confused about everything and probably would be overwhelmed…there was honestly just so much.

Things like meeting up with the Digital Nomad group of Entrepreneurs/Freelancers and seeing how they celebrate, to heading to the square in town and being surrounded by 90% locals, to the last day heading to a Foam Party and dancing like fools to dance music.

The Songkran Festival is something that I will never forget.

If you’re a traveler and/or an Entrepreneur/ Digital Nomad then you should make it a point to visit Thailand during the Songkran Festival.

You’ll meet new people, have water fights that will take you back to your childhood and you’ll be laughing for 3 days straight about how much fun you’re having.

You’ll be in an amazing state of pure bliss and happiness.

I’m still working on putting together a short little YouTube video to include with the post, but because there is around 10 hours of footage, i’ve been struggling with it. I’ll come back here and upload the video when it is ready.

If you want to see more pictures, visit my Chiang Mai Facebook photo album on Facebook.

For more detailed info visit, http://songkranday.com/songkran-chiang-mai-2016-water-festival-in-chiang-mai-2016/

 

Here’s the video my friend Ian from Freedom Podcasting put together!

A Day In The Digital Nomad Life: Koh Lanta Living

March 16, 2016
Location: listening to the crickets from the mountain in Koh Lanta, Thailand
Time: 8:49pm

 

Just got back from having a BLT wrap and a Guinness from the Irish Embassy pub here on the island of Koh Lanta for dinner.

Today Sam and I watched sunset from our condo as we’re up on the mountain in town and have a pretty great view from our place.

ko lanta thailand

It’s honestly a daily decision where we’re going to go to watch sunset, as living in a beach town it’s essential to watch sunset every night. It’s just a great way to relax and wind down after a day of work and exploring. Although, we’ve gotten into a good work schedule so it’s been more work than exploring lately.

In Koh Lanta, they have a co-working space where a bunch of digital nomads have gathered and work from everyday.

That’s actually one of the biggest reasons that we decided on coming to Koh Lanta. Living in Chiang Mai showed us that there was a crazy big digital nomad community in Thailand and it’s a very cool thing to witness. There’s thousands of young professionals living their life according to their terms and not following the traditional route…so I was all about that, as I’ve been living this way for a few years.

One problem that I had when I first started traveling and being an Entrepreneur who took my business with me was fast internet, I remember being in the Philippines and having a really hard time finding good internet so I could work.

That hasn’t been the case now, which is amazing. Luckily, when I went on the mastermind in Spain I picked up a mobile wifi device that allows me to just get a local SIM card with internet package and have around 10-50mbps download speeds for working anywhere.

mobile wifi for digital nomads

 

This thing is a life saver for an Online Entrepreneur / Digital Nomad lifestyle.

Alright, so what is my day to day life like in Koh Lanta as a Digital Nomad?

Well, I usually wake up between 7-8am everyday and then read for 30 mins to an hour before heading to KoHub (the co-working space).

Sam and I will then work on our business and accomplishing what is on our to-do list for the day.

We usually head to the beach around 2 or 3pm for an hour or two of reading on the beach for Sam, and about an hour of me swimming around in the ocean and floating around soaking in the salt water and sun.

I have a need for salt water and sun and when I can’t surf (no waves here) I at least need to spend some time in the water to get my fix.

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This is how I grab racks…and my friends think I’m crazy, but I do it everywhere I go.

I consciously take the time to realize there is ALWAYS money floating through the air through bank wires,transfers,etc and at any time billions of dollars are being exchanged through the air. My thoughts are the consciously grab them while they’re floating by me.

The businesses I create are the service I provide to the world in exchange for the money I grab… you can see it in action here!

PS

Here’s a shot from a lunch we had two days ago. The food wasn’t the best, but the view made up for it.

Koh Lanta Thailand

After lunch/swimming we usually come home and get showered up before heading out for dinner. The condo we rented isn’t really conducive for cooking so we’ve been eating out a bunch, good thing Thai meals are relatively cheap!

After getting cleaned up from the beach, we rotate where we watch sunset almost every night so that we can find the best sunset spots.

Koh Lanta is more expensive than places like Chiang Mai for meals, but we’re still only spending around 500 baht for both of us to eat and have a smoothie (that’s around $14 USD total)

I know a lot of digital nomads preach the ability to spend 30-40 baht a meal (around $1 USD) and are super pumped up about the fact that they can do that. For those of you who are saving money, eat at the local Thai places and you can usually find meals for around those prices.

If you enjoy good food and variety, like I do, it’s still super cheap compared to a lot of other places in the world. Meals in Singapore were around $20 per person for any type of meal.

The night time is pretty calm for us here. We’re definitely beach people as we can just relax after dinner and do a little more work if we need to, or in my case want to as I love what I do.

If you’ve read other posts of mine, you know how much I love fresh coconuts. Here’s me getting a bunch of coconuts in Mexico.

Since we’re up on the mountain, there’s access to coconuts in the wild…and I love them.

Chris Hughes coconut thailand

After a while, we usually just relax and watch some netflix. There are opportunities for night time activities, but it’s easier to just wake up earlier than to stay up late and try to do all of the activities that are offered everywhere.

Video about Digital Nomad life in Koh Lanta, Thailand

 

Learning to Cook in Thailand with the Thai Farm Cooking School

February 24, 2016
Location: sitting on the balcony in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Time: 12:18pm

 

Yesterday Sam and I went to the Thai Farm Cooking School to learn how to cook some Thai food. Here’s a picture of our teacher, Yummy. Yes his name is yummy and the food he helped us create was pretty damn good.

Thai Farm Cooking School

Yummy teaching us about eggplant, although the baby eggplant that we put in soup is an absolutely terrible taste in my opinion.

We started off in the morning getting picked up from our condo and then being driven to a little market to learn about where to buy some of the ingredients that we would be using during our cooking lesson.

 

Chiang Mai thailand market

Some of the things you can buy at a Thai market place.

When we first got to the farm, we sat down and had some fresh lemon herb tea and some water in preparation for our lesson. We started off by walking around a little bit and seeing how some of the ingredients were grown and what the plants look like before we turn them into food.

It was pretty cool to see some of the plants and to be able to smell and eat some of the freshest ingredients possible. You pull the plant out of the ground and can taste it and smell it, no pesticides needed!

Alright let’s get to the good part….eating!

Sam and I decided to split up who cooked what so that we would both learn something and we could share what we made to see what we liked best.

Here’s what my work station looked like:

Thai cooking school work station

Pretty simple, right? There was a little stove to the right where we cooked everything..

Some of the things I cooked were:

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Tom yam kung, tom yam with shrimp

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poh piah tod: springrolls

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In action shot10367194_10208502561462292_428131228702811629_n

Red Curry, sweet and sour chicken and jasmine rice with a Chang beer

and for dessert….

Kluay Bod Chii: aka Bananas in Coconut Milk

Kluay Bod Chii: aka Bananas in Coconut Milk

 

What did Sam make? 

Alright, I admit I was too busy eating and making my own stuff to get all of the pictures of what Sam made and she doesn’t share as much as I do with stuff I’m doing, so here’s a few action shots I did get.

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All in all, I had a great time and Sam did as well. We met some cool people as our group had a mother and daughter from Northern China, a couple from Germany, a solo girl from Germany, a girl from Bulgaria and her boyfriend and boyfriends mother and Sam and I.

It was fun to chat and share an experience with people from all over the world and see where everyone else was traveling to and where they had been. That’s always the best way to find out where I want to visit next…if enough people I meet tell me about a place that is a “must visit”, I tack it onto my to visit list!

Sure, we aren’t the best chefs in the world, but we now have a few other recipes that we can make when we have the ingredients. The only downside is that you need a lot of ingredients for the majority of these dishes that we don’t always have at the places we rent.

When we settle down and have a set house we live in, I’m sure the kitchen will be stocked with all of the spices and foods we’ll need and we’ll be able to re-create these recipes!

UPDATE: Sam’s pictures!

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February 16, 2016

A Motorbike Adventure from Chiang Mai to Pai – Thailand Adventures

The other day my friend Kyle, who I grew up with in the valley, came to visit me in Chiang Mai where I am currently living. Kyle’s currently living in Vietnam and teaching over there and had a break so decided to visit.

We spent a few days exploring Chiang Mai, eating street food, wandering around looking for cool photo spots and even hit up the Night Bazaar.

One thing that we were told is a must do is to head up to the Northern town of Pai….so we rented scooters and took the trip.

Chris Hughes motorbike from chiang mai to pai

Chris Hughes hopping back on the Motorbike after a quick break on the trip to Pai, Thailand

The night before while eating at a food truck and chatting with some people who were there, the people we met were surprised that we were planning on taking motorbikes up to Pai instead of driving. (These were locals to Chiang Mai)

We had been told by a few other people to just drive slow and keep an eye out for the potholes that used to take over the entire road there.

That didn’t impact our decision at all and the next day we were off to Pai. From my condo it appeared that we only needed to make 3 or 4 turns and follow the signs to get out of Chiang Mai and onto the road to Pai….sometimes I’m not the best with directions, so Kyle and I ended up driving around Chiang Mai for about 30 minutes before we realized that we missed a turn.

That led to some laughs and us having to back-track a bit, but after a little more driving we found the turn that we were supposed to take and ended up on the road to Pai.

From everything that I read about the trip and the road we were expecting that it would take a few hours to get there because of having to drive so slowly to avoid potholes.

We didn’t expect that the road would be in absolutely perfect condition. For the majority of the ride, the roads were in perfect condition. I’m talking about them having just paved one side of the road and were paving the other side for portions of the road, while other long parts of the road were in better condition than roads I’ve driven on in the USA.

There were a few times where one side of the road was closed and we were supposed to wait along with all the other cars so 1 side of the road could go at a time…however the beauty of motorbikes is that you can just go along the side of the cars and avoid a lot of the waits.

After about 3.5 hours of driving through absolutely beautiful hills we arrived in Pai.

I personally thought the best part of going to Pai was driving through the fresh mountain air and just stopping and overlooking the views. There were a few different times where Kyle and I stopped and we just laughed because it really reminded us of the views you would see driving to our friend Colin’s dad’s house in upstate NY when we were in high school.

It felt like being back at home with my bro, but instead of being in cars or walking the street we were on motorbikes.

After getting to Pai we drove around a while to find the hotel we were staying in. That was quick and easy since the town is so small.

Our first order of business upon arrival was to find a good place to get a massage. Sitting in one position for a few hours is pretty rough on the body and certain parts towards the end of the road weren’t fully paved and we were bouncing around a bit on the motorbikes.

We walked around town for about 10 minutes (it’s a tiny town) and were looking for a massage place that had a bunch of flip flops/shoes outside so that we could see it was a good place. In Thailand it is customary to take off your shoes before entering a building.

We found one place and ended up getting an amazing 1 hour Thai massage where they stretch you like crazy. I’m talking about finding that point of stretching and pain and just playing around the with line to get the best stretch possible.

There were a few times where I thought I was going to cry a bit in pain, but then she released the stretch. After this I felt like a million bucks, actually I felt a little high. If you’ve ever gotten a great massage where you feel super super relaxed, you’ll know the feeling.

We then wandered around town for the night and did some bar hopping and street vendor hopping seeing who had the best foods.

Here’s a few of the places we stopped.

Grandma’s Pancakes: we found this place at the end of the night and it was this old woman serving pancakes cooked right in front of you. We chose to get 4 of the pancake sausage combos and honestly I wish we would have gotten about 40 of these. They were so good.

– Ting Tong’s the Living Room: place with the cool lounge chairs

Sabai Bar: we ended up hanging here to listen to some live music and play some chess. Very laid back feel to it.

– Fine Rice: this is where we had our main dinner. It was referred to Kyle as a great place and the food was pretty good, nothing too spectacular especially compared with most of the street food there.

 

 

On the ride back, we decided to stop and see one of the landmarks called “The Landsplit” and it was just that. In 2008 the land split.

Kyle and I weren’t really sure what had gone on but it seemed like it was run by a bunch of ex-pat 20-30 somethings with 2-3 local Thai people hanging out as well.

Chris Hughes The CPA Surfer in Pai Thailand

The Landsplit Pai Thailand

It wasn’t too much to look at, but the best part was that they brought out food and a rosella tea that was delicious. You basically just pay what you want and that’s how they run the attraction.

You also can write in one of their visitor books and we both chose to do that. I put a funny little message in the book with my thoughts so if you can find it you’ll get a kick…

here’s a hint: “been here 3 days, still haven’t found it…”

We were also planning on stopping to visit the #1 tripadvisor spot the Pai Canyon, although we ended up driving past it on our bikes and didn’t realize until about 20 minutes later and thought it wouldn’t be worth back-tracking.

Kyle and I have both seen a bunch of canyon’s so it wasn’t like we were missing much from what it seemed like from reading.

All in all, the trip was fun and it was great to breath some clean mountain air after being in Chiang Mai for the last month or so.

I’d say the best parts of the trip to Pai were simply stopping and just breathing and looking out over the hills and appreciating nature for what it is.

If you are thinking about visiting there, I’d do it. There are a lot of other nature based things to do up there when you arrive but Kyle and I were on a schedule since he needed to head back to Vietnam soon.

Have you been to Pai?

 

Visiting Bangkok Thailand

Time: 4:05pm
Date: Sunday January 4,2016
Location: Windsor Suites Hotel Bangkok, Thailand

Chris Hughes,Windsor Suites Hotel Bangkok, ThailandChris Hughes,Windsor Suites Hotel Bangkok, ThailandOn New Years Eve we flew out of Chicago and flew to Dubai on business class with Emirates, which was an amazing experience. Spending 13 1/2 hours on that plane was quite the treat compared to normal flying.

When we arrived in Bangkok, Samantha got online and read through some reviews of what we should do in Bangkok while we were here. She stumbled across the Thai Tour Guide company and found some great reviews of their service so we booked a 9am-4pm day tour with the company and it was a great idea.

Here’s what we did according to their itinerary and below this you’ll see some pictures and my thoughts about each place.

The Royal Grand Palace & The Royal Temple are the perfect introduction to Thailand’s Architecture, Culture and Tradition, You will visit the highlight attractions around this complex such as

The Royal Temple (Wat Phra Kaew, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha), The Golden Chedi, Pantheon of the Chakri’s Kings, A miniature replica of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Coronation Throne Hall and Royal Reception Hall

Wat Pho (The Temple of The Reclining Buddha) is one of the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and still an important center for Traditional Thai Medicine and Traditional Thai Massages School

Canal Tour, Take a long tail boat along the bustling Chao Phraya River and quiet Klongs (canals) Passing picturesque scenes of Thai River Life.

By the river see Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) is an important landmark located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The main shrine, decorated with glazed ornaments and ceramics, rises 67 meters towards the heavens. Built during the beginning of King Taksin era, the magnificent temple reflects the glory of the Thai culture. The highest Prang in Thailand symbolizing Hindu-Buddhist cosmology

Pak Klong Talad (Flowers & Vegetables Market), It is known mostly as a wholesale flower market serving everyone from flower vendors to florists, but it also has a good selection of fresh vegetables, which are bought in the pre-dawn hours to be transported to neighborhood markets around Bangkok for sale in the morning.

Pak Klong Talad is the most important flowers & Vegetables wholesale market in town

My thoughts

We started off with visiting The Royal Grand Palace & The Royal Temple.

The Royal Grand Palace & The Royal Temple Bangkok IMG_4124 IMG_4128 IMG_4132 IMG_4135 IMG_4139 IMG_4140

 

This place was unreal. In fact, all of the temples that we’ve seen so far are just so detailed it’s insane to think about how much time it actually took to build and touch up everything. We were told that the whole thing took only 3 years to design but with how much was put into it, it’s almost impossible to imagine it only taking 3 years.

One thing that was pretty interesting is where the inspiration for a lot of these came. Many of the designs have a Cambodian style mixed with some Thai and Chinese influences.

Looking at the pictures right now it’s a shame that the camera can’t capture what it’s really like as good as I wish it could.

Every color just POPS and the gold shines so bright it’s unbelievable. I honestly wonder how it doesn’t all get tarnished.

We did go on a Sunday, so it was extremely busy and the fact that it’s immediately after a New Year made it even busier than usual according to our guide, Tao. He did a great job with a lot of the pictures and snapped them with a minimal amount of people in them, which was great.

Next up we went out on the Canal Tour. We took a long tail boat along the bustling Chao Phraya River and quiet Klongs (canals) Passing picturesque scenes of Thai River Life.

canal tour bangkok

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A lot of the little kids who were out on their docks with their parents waved to us when we went by them, which was great. Seeing kids from around the world is one of my favorite things. Seeing the joy that simple things can bring into their life helps me to be grateful and appreciate what I see even more. 

After the tour we wandered around a bit and ended up walking through Pak Klong Talad (Flowers & Vegetables Market), It is known mostly as a wholesale flower market serving everyone from flower vendors to florists, but it also has a good selection of fresh vegetables, which are bought in the pre-dawn hours to be transported to neighborhood markets around Bangkok for sale in the morning.

Pak Klong Talad is the most important flowers & Vegetables wholesale market in town and holy damn is it enormous. It had more flowers in one spot than I have ever seen and for insanely cheap prices. Sam must have taken 30 pictures of just the orchids and the pricing for them. 

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The current conversion rate is  1 U.S. dollar = 35.9350295 Thai baht

That means the picture with all of those roses that was 60 baht costs about $2 USD…. insane, right?

Next up was visiting Wat Pho (The Temple of The Reclining Buddha) is one of the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and still an important center for Traditional Thai Medicine and Traditional Thai Massages School

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The third largest buddha in Thailand… our guide said it was about 42 meters long! Sadly, the symbol of Buddha laying down meant ill health and was said to be a representation of the end of life. IMG_4293 IMG_4297 IMG_4301 IMG_4306 IMG_4308

The details on this were unbelievable. IMG_4313

Massage students use to have to study these pictures, but after passing their tests they were able to practice anywhere in the world. Luckily now, they have an actual school teaching them! IMG_4319

Random facts we learned:

  • The halo on the top of Buddha’s head is shown as a way of separating Buddha from man. The images of Buddha with a bald head are actually the monk-version of him
  • The things on the top shelf Buddha’s sitting on are all pointing up to show that Buddha is sitting on elevated ground and the ground moves up to support the Buddha.
  • Buddha is made to be both female and maleIMG_4321 IMG_4329 IMG_4331 IMG_4332

Surprisingly we were allowed to take pictures in here, although you can’t point your feet directly at Buddha so whenever you sit/kneel, you must place your feet in a direction other than directly at Buddha.

 

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