Thai Basil Chicken: WIN

Since coming back to America my adventuring has been put on hold and I have been focusing on reconnecting with family and friends I haven’t seen for the past 4 years of being abroad.

One big thing I have been doing is missing my Thai diet. Not only have I reinstated breads and dairy into my diet, my portion sizes have been on the rise. Welcome back to the fast food nation! Actually, pizza aside I haven’t been eating all that much fast food, but when Louis C.K.’s joke “the meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself” becomes a reality, I mean……

Anyway, since I miss the lighter feeling of Thai food on the stomach and  I made pizza a staple meal last week in California, I have decided to change things up a bit. I’ve taken to the kitchen to attempt playing Thai chef! The great thing about Thai food is that a recipe is literally just a suggestion of what to put in it and you can bend it however you want. On the other hand, ingredients are difficult if not impossible to find.

I found this recipe for Thai basil chicken (pad grapow gai ผัดกระเพราไก่) and decided to try it out. There are three ingredients you will probably have a problem finding; Thai chilies, holy basil, and dark soy sauce.

I still haven’t found dark soy sauce or Thai holy basil, but I did get lucky with the chilies! I found green chilies at Winco and a couple of days ago I found frozen red chilies in an Asian market! If you live in the Boise area you can find them at Orient Market on  Emerald St. For the Thai holy basil I just use regular Thai basil and you can find that in most supermarkets. I’m sure you can make dark soy sauce at home but I just leave it out. It’s still good!

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The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but making this Thai dish was a definite success!!

Back in the USA

Hey all! So I have returned to America for the summer months to visit friends and family. I thought this trip would be full of bouncing from place to place but rather uneventful…but I was wrong!

While visiting some family in Florida, I discovered that my uncle is a pilot with his very own plane. What?! HE. HAS. A. PLANE! And he offered to take us up one morning for a little aerial tour of the Amelia Island coastline.

Flying a plane has been on my bucket list for a long while now.

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You can imagine the excitement I felt as we drove out to the little airport.  We went to my uncle’s hangar and got to check out the little plane we were about to fly in.

I jumped at the chance to grab front seat before he even finished asking us who wanted to claim it and we clambered aboard. We put on our headpieces, performed a pre-flight check, and then we were off! It was so awesome watching a take off from the cockpit. It’s like I never knew I wanted to be a pilot until I saw what pilots see all the time. Realistically, I don’t actually want to become a pilot, but it is pretty sweet.

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Once we reached altitude and leveled off I looked over at my uncle. “Can I…can I fly it?!” I asked, holding my breath. “Oh yeah! Of course!” crackled in through my earpiece and I almost died wit13393513_10206457922983578_564837812_nh excitement. I did a little cheer and clapped and grabbed the controls, letting him guide me through it. I didn’t ascend or descend (I feel like my uncle did not want to gamble with death and quite frankly neither did I) but we stayed level and I followed the coastline before cutting inland.13400924_10206457921063530_2103348785_n

 

I was feeling simultaneously exhilarated and terrified at the same time, because as much fun as it was I didn’t want to over turn and send up spiraling (which, as I have since learned, is actually quite difficult to do). After landing he let me guide the plane along the runway and around to the hangar. I was so so stoked to unexpectedly be presented with the opportunity to knock off a huge bucket list item and lifelong goal: fly a plane. I did it!!

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He looks so pleased with the mid flight selfie….

Starbeach Bungalows: Where I SHOULD Have Stayed on Koh Chang

So when Nick and I parted ways I went to Apple Resort for 4 nights, which was a mistake. I wanted to stay one more night after getting certified and so I moved farther on down White Sand Beach to Starbeach BungalowsThis is where I should have stayed for those 4 nights before! This was truly a backpacker bungalow, but it was a much better value for your money.


(My selfie game was apparently much stronger than my desire to actually document anything at this point so, embarrassingly enough, don’t have any face on pictures of the bungalows. Instead here are some photos of the beach and resorts to both the right and the left of the actual place!)

Starbeach Bungalows is nestled in with other hideaways such as Pens Bungalows and Independent Bos. If you want a real flash place I would probably not recommend these, but if you want a down to earth, relaxed, part of the environment feel I 100% recommend this place!! I have, at the end of the day, a little backpacker heart and soul and I felt right at home here. I could have stayed for weeks.12998351_10206181581115204_8867459039639281662_o

I don’t th12998445_10206181593195506_8167913864806739835_oink you can reserve a room, and it’s better to just walk up anyway! I got a room no problem. After paying for a night I followed the receptionist
and we climbed just a few short steps up to what seemed like a little tree house jutting out over the tops of the lower bungalows, but it was just so quaint and cute! No, it did not have air con, but for only 500 baht I had my own room with a balcony (including a bench, table and 13041353_10206181588355385_345206040725795785_oline to hang wet clothes), a sea view, a fan and mosquito net, as well has hot water showers. It was not the same ca13055663_10206181584395286_4639822596716989949_oliber as
the room at Apple but any stretch but I felt like it was very nice for only 500 baht and overall a much better deal. There were even less people down on this side of the beach and the water was just as calm and clear. The food in the restaurant was cheaper and the meals, both foreign and Thai, looked like much better quality food based on my sneaky glances around at other peoples’ tables.😛

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I ordered a cheeseburger earlier that day from a restaurant just a short walk down the beach called 15 Palms for maybe 230 baht, but it was huge and came with plenty of chips, a fresh salad, and sauces. I DID manage to get a picture of that! (Food, apparently higher priority than most things on my “I should take a picture of this” list)

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Look at it. It’s beautiful.

The bar and restaurant did not stay open too late at Starbeach but the bar next door was open until 1am and I joined some of the guests for a nice little party there for my final night on Koh Chang. I absolutely loved this place. I want to go back, I wanted to go back the second I left! If you are a backpacker, this is definitely your scene (and at a very affordable price).

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Waiting for sunset on a hidden rock at the ocean’s edge. Not a bad way to spend the evening!

Name: Starbeach Bungalows
Location: north end of White Sands Beach, Koh Chang
Price: 500 baht/night
Pros: price, sea view, hot water showers, mosquito net, large balcony with table and bench, fan
Cons: no air con, bathroom in a little bit of dis-repair, you share the room (namely bathroom) with some ants, no direct access to the main road – you must walk down the beach a little bit (pro or con, depending on how you feel about it!)
Would I stay here again?: Absolutely!

Treat Yo Self Fail: Apple Resort Review

While in Koh Chang I decided to get myself SCUBA certified, and since my friend Nick was gone and it was my last week and a half in Thailand I decided to (try and) treat myself to a nice beachfront resort. I am, as I have come to find out, not very good at treating myself.

I hopped onto Agoda and found a resort called Apple Resort. It looked nice, had decent reviews…and was just over 2,000 baht a night. Ouch. But, after looking at some other places for slightly more, I decided this was a pretty good option. The room I wanted to book for 4 nights claimed to have free breakfast included (which I was pretty excited about because free food…) so I booked it and made my way over. I checked in around 12 and they said they had to clean the room and I could wait in the bar/restaurant area. Fair enough.  Check in was at 2pm but they did say there were going to get it cleaned for me when I checked in. Maybe there was a misunderstanding on my part when I thought they were going to clean it right away when the receptionist ran off to talk to someone, but I waited in the bar for over an hour.

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I finally got into the room and I was happy enough with it, it was spacious, had a big comfy bed, hot water shower, fridge, very efficient air con, and a little balcony overlooking the pool. I was happy with it and went down to the restaurant after showering to order some lunch. I ordered fried vermicelli noodles with chicken ( a Thai dish) and it was quite good! Decently priced (70 baht) considering the location. I got to eat right on the beach with a beautiful sea view.

It was a good place to stay and I am not complaining about the room, it was clean and had all the amenities. BUT, there were some things I found problematic. The receipt they gave me when checking in said breakfast was not included. I meant to ask them about this and double check, but I got distracted and then just kept forgetting and so that problem maybe could have been cleared up but I dropped the ball.

Another problem was the complete lack of room service. I stayed there for 4 days and not once was my room serviced. No one ever came to take out the trash or replace the towels. Even the place I stayed at before for literally a quarter of the price came in every other day and replaced the towels, waters, and shampoo/soaps.

I ordered fish and chips my final night at the resort for about 220 baht and it was dismal. I received a plate with a greasy looking hunk of deep fried fish no bigger than my fist and a handful of fries that looked to be haphazardly thrown together on a plate.  There was no lemon, tartar sauce, or any sort of sauce at all for the fish. I was quite disappointed with this meal.

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Overall, the room was pleasant and the Thai food was quite good from the restaurant. The beach was clean and not too busy, the water clear and calm. As a definite bonus the beach was beautiful! But all of White Sands Beach is beautiful no matter where you stay. However, the lack of room servicing and incredibly overpriced meals for small portioned and poorly prepared foreign food was a huge disappointment.  If the room was priced at half of the price I would be much happier, but for over 2,000 baht a night I feel like I was incredibly ripped off.

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My treat yo’ self endeavor failed; love the beach but I was disappointed with this resort. If you find yourself on Koh Chang’s White Sand Beach avoid this resort, there are many better places to stay!!

Name: Apple Resort
Location: White Sands Beach, Koh Chang
Price: Just over 2,000 baht from agoda.com for a pool view room
Pros: Thai food was good from the restaurant, rooms were clean and in good condition, all promised amenities in the room were included, efficient air con, balcony big enough to sit on with a pool view as stated
Cons: Room was not serviced once over 4 days, overpriced foreign food, website was completely in Thai so you don’t know what the walk in prices are, booked for free breakfast but in reality it was not included
Would I go back?: No.

 

Buengkan Passport

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Price: $$

Amenities: fans, free wi-fi, free water

Location: Just like WaWa, it is outside of town a little bit on Buengkan Road. Walkable, but bicycle recommended (especially when its hot!). On the way to the small lake and park, you will find Buengkan Passport on the left hand side of the road.

Taste: Good, strong coffee taste. I was warned before ordering that it was bitter, but I think that’s because I usually order a hazelnut latte from here which is decidedly sweeter than an espresso. The espresso was not too sweet (or bitter) and had a good flavor.Nice kick to it too.

Menu and Ease or Ordering: This coffee shop is run by a lovely couple and they can both 13055716_10206195017091095_3532891433425169286_ospeak English enough for you to order with ease. The menu is written in both English and Thai languages. The only downfall is they serve only coffee and no sort of desserts or snacks, but as long as you remember to grab a bite to eat before you get there you should be ok!

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Special Menu: For only 25 baht you get an anchan drink. Anchan is the blue/purple flower that we call butterfly pea. This drink is made with sweet milk so it is very sweet, but delicious! And pretty, too.🙂

Environment:  I am going to be honest this review miiight be a bit biased because this is my favorite coffee shop in Buengkan, but it’s my favorite for a reason!! P’Ee runs the coffee shop and P’Bas is a photographer. Their shop is large and very open feeling. They do not have air con but only fans, so in the summer it can12973462_1695307094091021_3639034225257940752_o get a bit toasty but they have a lot of fans so you will always have one pointed in your direction. There are usually photography students that come and go to learn with P’Bas, so there is always something going on. That being said, it still has a quiet atmosphere where you can feel comfortable working, reading, or chatting with friends. The shop used to look out onto the little lake but due to recent constructio12973572_1695307027424361_6437332491007846626_on on the river there is a significantly large sand a rock pile outside. No worries though, the view it is still good and on Tuesday and Friday mornings you can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of the Thai-Laos market. There is sometimes music, sometimes not.

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The Coffee Project

 

The Chill Life on Koh Jum (เกาะจัม) Part 2: The Details

So, you have read about the experience, now for getting to Koh Jum!

Back to Bangkok with B in our hostel:
Our German friend had recommended Seasons Bungalow, but it was closed for the season and the booking agent we were chatting with told us to try New Bungalows so we decided to check it out. I think we got pretty lucky for basically picking a place blindly. New Bungalows is on Andaman Beach, which I think is one of if not the best beach on the island. The water is calm, the beach sandy, and you can swim any time of the day safely. The front receptionist/cook (the bigger lady there) was a bit grumpy at New Bungalows and I’ll be honest she wasn’t my favorite person, but she wasn’t bad enough to ruin my day. We got a room for I think 600 baht. It was very basic, fan only and two beds with mosquito netting and a bathroom. There was wifi available in the restaurant and the generator was turned off at 10:30pm (the turned it back on at 6am). The bungalow was very close to the beach and it was lovely! There were cheaper bungalows farther from the beach but still very close. Maybe a 200 meter walk at most. The village was just a 15 minute walk from the resort.

The overall ambiance of the island was safe, friendly and relaxed. Actual paradise.🙂

Getting there:
From Bangkok: when we went we booked a bus ticket + ferry ride straight to Koh Jum. The bus we took left in the evening and we caught the late morning ferry, arriving om the island late afternoon the day after we left Bangkok.
Bus + ferry combo: Transport 999
Transport time: about 15 hours
Price: about 1,200 – 1,500 baht

If you have pre-booked like we did, a longtail boat from your resort will come out to the ferry to collect you. Its easy! Prices will be a little bit more expensive to get back to Krabi but that is to be expected when travelling on the islands. When you arrange to get of of Koh Jum, a longtail boat from your resort will transport you back out to the ferry to get to the mainland.Wear some sunscreen because we ended up waiting out on the water for about 15-20 minutes in the sun.

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*Prices quoted above were the current prices in 2014. They may have changed so it’s best to shop around for the best and/or most accurate price.

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The Chill Life on Koh Jum (เกาะจัม) Part 1: The Experience

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My friend B came to Thailand back in April 2014 for a few weeks to visit and celebrate Songkran with me. I picked her up in Bangkok where we spent a couple extra days hanging out with new friends before heading south. We were unsure of where to go and a German girl in our hostel recommended Koh Jum near Krabi for some quiet island down time.

So we went.

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And it certainly was quiet; it is overall much quieter than it’s neighbors Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. It was early to mid April and ending the open season for Koh Jum (Nov-Apr),

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESresulting in a rather empty island void of tourists. There were no parties, no late nights, not even any bars! There was one I think but it was already closed for the season. I thought it was perfect; a little spit of land with kind people and peaceful silence. B and I got rather burned on the 2 hour ferry trip over, but that was to be expected since we used expired sunscreen. Note: the expiration date is legitimate on 20140407_121018sunscreen. We spent the first day off the beach and in the shade. When the ferry stops at Koh Jum, it doesn’t go to a port…longtail boats from your resort will come out and collect you to bring you in. It was pretty cool! We stayed at New Bungalows on Andaman Beach and it was beautiful. The beach was smooth and sandy and swimming in the blue, blue water was great! For more details on New Bungalows, check out Part 2 of the Koh Jum posts.

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NSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESew Bungalows didn’t have any bikes or kayaks available, but that was fine-they were still easy to obtain! B and I spent many days relaxing on the beach and walking into the town for lunch or dinner (it was a bit cheaper there than the restaurant at the resort,  but that food was good too!) but we did start to feel a bit restless. After speculating about a small island just off the shore, we decided one morning to goSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES next

door to I think Freedom Bungalows and inquire about kayaks for rent. They had kayaks available for half days and full days, so we decided to take one out for the morning and venture to the little island. We envisioned a sandy beach and a day of doing…basically

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Lost at sea

what we had been doing on our own beach for the past few days really. After discovering that we are not very skilled at working together when it comes to kayaking and after a lot of laughter and circles we finally made it to our little island! I’m gonna be honest it was a little bit of a disappointment. The beach was covered in driftwood and rocks;1972326_801159026560844_3866103081325407309_n it was gravelly and not very nice. But we managed to have fun
regardless. We were quite glad we kayaked over in the 1016915_801158829894197_6665510691596019522_nmorning, because it got a little bit windy on the way back and it was a real mission for us haha. Also, if anyone knows what kind of bird this skeleton belongs to, please tell me- we were very curious!

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After kayaking back we walked into town for lunch. I can’t remember the name of SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESthe restaurant now, but we always ate there because the couple who owned it were just so lovely and friendly! We loved chatting with them. We rented bicycles for the afternoon from a shop in town and decided to try and cycle the whole island. It looked dSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESoable on the map. I’ll tell you now, the map lies. We cycled to all the beaches and I have to say Andaman beach was the nicest and we were glad we stayed there instead of Seasons Bungalow which was on Golden Pearl Beach. WSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESe ended up at a beach on the opposite end of the island and decided to swimSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES and cool down a bit. We got a bit stuck on the way back when the road ended and cycling became impossible, and we had to walk our bikes back across the beach to fSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESind the road again and backtrack the way we came from originally. It was a hot but not too strenuous ride and only took half a day to tour the whole island. Great way to spend an afternoon!

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As we sat on the longtail boat waiting for the ferry to come and take us back to Krabi, I already started to miss Koh Jum. I still often think about the laid back attitudes, beautiful sunsets, and sandy beaches of the island. If you ever come to Thailand, you should definitely visit Koh Jum for that slice of paradise beach time R&R. You won’t regret it!

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