Hong Kong

This past weekend in Hong Kong with Linda and Henna was absolutely fantastic! We arrived at midnight at our hostel, the City Plus Hostel, which was conveniently located, but hilariously small. You could touch three of the walls at the same, and while sitting on the toilet you had to face sideways because there was zero leg room. We laughed at everything though, and the woman who managed it was so sweet that we didn’t mind.

Our first day in Hong Kong we hopped on a bus and drove up to Victoria Peak. We were greeted with a breathtaking view of the city, and of course a mall. There are malls EVERYWHERE in Hong Kong. The city definitely has a similar vibe to New York City, so I right away fell in love. Victoria Peak was beautiful, and it was great to see the layout of the land and Hong Kong Island. We walked around a lot and had delicious food, and lots of bubble tea! There is this one chain called Hiu Lau Shan, which markets itself as healthy deserts. Their bubble teas are UNBELIEVABLE, and my favorite was the mighty mango. It had pure mango puree, coconut milk, mango chunks, and the bubbles were rice balls. It was pretty much like sticky rice and mango in a drink, and it was the best drink I have ever had. We also did go to McDonalds. I know what youre thinking, who goes to Hong Kong and eats McDonalds. But they have a shrimp and pineapple burger and seaweed French fries, so we had to try it. The street is lined with stalls serving delicious desserts such as buns, and the Chinese food was very yummy. Lots of noodles and soup. I will say that compared to Thai food, Chinese food is much more bland, but still delicious.

Sweet Potato and Cream Buns

Sweet Potato and Cream Buns

Mango and Coconut Bubble Tea from Hui Lau Shan

Mango and Coconut Bubble Tea from Hui Lau Shan

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

We took a ferry to Hong Kong Island, which was a nice sight as well. Its been a while since I have seen such towering buildings, and I enjoyed the city feel. One of the nights we went to a skybar on the rooftop of a 40 floor tower, which was also beautiful. It feels like many of the major activities in Hong Kong were going to high places and looking down. Which is awesome! Linda’s friend is studying in Hong Kong for the semester, and it was neat to hear about her experiences. Definitely different than Phuket! It seems that their course load is much more rigorous, and there are 300 international students! And obviously they play with monkeys and go on boats a lot less 😉 On the skybar we met a bunch of investment bankers from Australia and the US who work and live in Hong Kong. All the expats in Phuket that I have met are teachers and personal trainers, so it was definitely a different expat lifestyle than I have heard of thus far. Hong Kong is a really neat place, and if you are in Southeast Asia its definitely worth a visit. Just walking around is really neat and the population is much more diverse (obviously) than Phuket. The trip reminded me of how much I love cities, but I definitely am much more of an island girl.

View from Skybar

View from Skybar

After our amazing weekend we returned for our last week of classes! It is so crazy how time has flown by! I have less than three weeks left before returning home, and I am sure they will be the best three weeks yet. I had my ballroom dance and Thai exam, so all finished up, and just 2 exams left. I leave for Singapore tonight to meet my sister and mom, and then we will come back to Phuket to explore! Looking forward to seeing them and seeing all Singapore has to offer!

Monkeys::Pride::Boats

Last Friday, I took a trip to Monkey Hill with three other students. We hiked up to the top (call me lazy but Monkey Mountain not only sounds better, but feels more accurate) and saw tons of monkeys along the way. People buy peanuts and fruit and feed them to the monkeys, and they are truly adorable. Some are evil though, and look like they want to rip your face off. Luckily we all kept our faces in tact, and got to shake hands with a couple of monkeys along the way. When you feed a few of them, dozens of them start to follow you up the hill. Its like a glimpse into the life of a celebrity, except instead of paparazzi you are being chased by monkeys. We had a great time and got nice photos, including one of a monkey drop-kicking me.

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I also had a Poker Night with a few of the guys this weekend, and I won! Following in my dads footsteps to greatness. Watch out world, Ray the Poker Play (er) is coming for you!

On Sunday, I went to the opening of Phuket Gay Pride Week, which kicked off with a fun talent show at CCs Hideaway. Colin, the British professor, was one of the judges, and it was great to go out and show my support. There were singers, dancers, musicians, fire shows, and more. The host said that Phuket Pride Week is the only pride week in Thailand, but there is apparently a scene in Bangkok, and even Chiang Mai. It is great to see a vibrant community here, and the whole week is filled with fun activities. All of the proceeds goes to various HIV/AIDS charities in the area, including the one we helped bag condoms for. Had a great time, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy to see a show of confident, comfortable people with awesome talents! Plus I had the best mango daiquiri I have ever had, so Pride Week is off to a kickin start.

On Monday, I spent the day with another student at Freedom Beach. This is a hidden beach close to Karon, and used to only accessible by long-tail boat. There is now a gravel road, and a long hill, that allows it accessible by motorbike. The beach had about 8 other people on it for the entire day, and was absolutely beautiful. The most vivid blue water I have seen yet! There is a 200 baht entrance fee, but worth it if you want an extraordinary beach day. For those going in the future, it is on the road from Patong to Karon, and on the first right after the Reggae Bar. There is no sign, so you kind of have to find it by word of mouth. Definitely worth the trip J

Freedom Beach Freedom Beach

Yesterday, though, was one of my favorites days in Thailand, and also ever! Colin had another birthday celebration (he points at that if the Queen of Englands gets multiple celebrations he deserves it as well) on his friends private boat. There were about 15 of us who went out for the day, and pretty much had the best time ever. The guy had a kayak and waterskies! I was terrible at it but the 1.75 seconds I spent skiing was incredible! We jumped, ate cake, swam, laughed, got burned, and had the time of our lives. Nothing like spending the day on the ocean with 14 friends in the best country in the world J

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This week was amazing, and tomorrow I leave for Hong Kong with my two roommates! Looking forward to exploring another island!

Songkran

This past week we celebrated Songkran, which is the Thai New Year. All around the country, the holiday is acknowledged with insane water fights. In Chiang Mai, it is celebrated for the entire duration of Songkran, but in Phuket, we just celebrate with water fights on the 13th of April. Monday was one of the most fun days in Thailand thus far, and probably my entire life. Colin, a professor at the university, rented an enormous truck for the day. There was about 25 of us (5 students and the rest were Colin’s friends) which made for a cramped, but awesome, time. We loaded up on to the truck at 9 am, with our neon water guns, 4 barrels of water, 8 blocks of ice, “good luck” facepaint made of baby-powder, and a dedication to let nobody get by dry. We went down to Rawaii, and spent 6 hours in intense water fights. People get very into it, and the streets are lined with families throwing water at those passing by. There were numerous other trucks, and it was awesome driving by them and having everyone shoot water at each other. There are tons of music stations set up, and people are dancing all over! Everyone was happy and wet, and smiles were everywhere. It was great to see everyone so proud of their Thai culture. We spent the whole day entirely drenched, and would even throw water on our own team. Songkran is by far the greatest holiday I have experienced, and I will definitely be back for future celebrations!

Full Moon Party::Bird Park::Chabad

Last weekend I traveled with three of my classmates to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party! It was a great time, and I definitely suggest taking the trip there if you want to have a blast with 20,000 people on a beach! It is similar to the bar scene at Phi Phi, but much larger, and more activities. Fire jump-rope, slides, tons of DJs! And people from all over that have fun stories to share. Very crazy experience, and everyone stays out until the sunrise! I really enjoyed it! It was also nice to explore another island; I wish I could see every island in Thailand, as they all offer a unique vibe! On the way back, we took a night ferry for half of the way. It takes about 12 hours each way, which will be spent on a ferry and busses. The night ferry was pretty crazy- they set up rows of cots and everyone is assigned a space about a meter wide. Which means you get pretty comfortable with the people around you. It has open sides, though, so you fall asleep to the sound of the waves and a light breeze, and it was one of the best sleeps I’ve had in Thailand to be honest.

Full Moon Party     Full Moon Party

In ballroom dance class we learned the jive, which made for a pretty entertaining two hours. It was pretty hilarious to be in a room full of thirty Thai students and myself jumping around to old American country music. We had a great time and are now jiving experts (kind of). Only two more weeks of class!! We have a week off next week for Songkran Festival, the Thai New Year, two weeks of class, and then two weeks of exams! Time is flying!

On Thursday I had a field trip with my Wildlife Business Management class to the Phuket Bird Park. They had a ton of exotic birds, including varieties of hornbills! We watched a bird show, and I volunteered to have a bird eat something off my head. So I got a beautiful painting that they said was done by birds. It could’ve been painted by 2 year olds, I dunno. But its silly and rainbow so I like it. I wish classes at UGA had field trips- it was a great time! Plus the bird park is 500 baht, and we got in for 50 baht. Love the student discounts!

Phuket Bird Park

Phuket Bird Park

Phuket Bird Park

Last night I decided to go to the Chabad (a Jewish movement that has houses around the world where people can go for a service and meal) in Phuket to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. It turned out I was the only non-Israeli in the room, and the entire thing was in Hebrew. Most people only spoke Hebrew, but I did sit next to two women from Tel Aviv who spoke a bit of English. They left pretty early and then three guys from Jerusalem sat across from me, who had just finished their time in the IDF. Two of them spoke a bit of English, and I heard a bit about their experience and their travels. Even though the communication was a challenge, it was nice sharing stories. And the meal was delicious! My first time having Matzah this holiday (believe it or not there’s not an abundance of Matzah in Phuket) and delicious Israeli food. Even though my lack of Hebrew made conversation hard, I still felt very comfortable at the Chabad. It’s a pretty nice feeling being across the world from your home, but being able to join in a prayer with other travelers in Thailand. It definitely felt homey, and I enjoyed my experience. I will definitely be returning, and maybe bringing Sarah and mom next time!

I am excited for my week off and to celebrate the new years with a huge water fight all around Phuket! My roommates are going to Chiang Mai and Bangkok this week, which is bad timing because we recently spotted a HUGE lizard in our yard that is about 2 feet long and can climb up trees. So I am left to fend for myself. Wish me luck.

Vietnam

Just got back from an awesome time in Vietnam with Henna, Anton, Mel, Maju, and Jan, and its safe to say I have fallen in love with my second Southeast Asia country. It really should be renamed Vietnomnomnom because all the food was absolutely delicious. Not only do they sport delicious pho, noodles, fresh fruits, shrimp springrolls, and yummy drinks, but SANDWHICHES are a part of their national cuisine. That’s beautiful stuff. Also, everything is insanely cheap! And when something is cheap from Thailand standards, you know its cheap. Beer costs 30 cents, and meals are often less than a dollar. And did I mention the sandwiches?!

Vietnamese Food

Vietnamese Food

We did run into some problems on our way to Vietnam, when 3 of the 6 travelers got stopped for not having proper identification to leave. So for those of you reading from a Scandinavian country- you need a flight out, not just a bus ticket. Two made it through, but one was left in Bangkok because of passport issues. Really the week was Survivor: Vietnam edition. But the five of us made it, and spent our first day touring the tunnels of the Vietnamese guerilla fighters. Hundreds of the fighters lived underground for long periods of time, only surfacing at night or during combat. The tunnels were tiny, and the one we went through was pretty claustrophobia-inducing. And we found out they actually widened it for fat westerners, so that’s not good. It was really interesting to learn about the combat and war, and I realized I had very little knowledge about the event. It was pretty fascinating, and I highly recommend this for anyone traveling to Vietnam. There is also a shooting range in the middle where you can shoot AK47s for a few dollars. None of us really understood why, but when in Vietnam right?

That night we went to the night market and had more delicious food. I also got weasel coffee to try and to force feed my dad. Basically, it is coffee beans that is eaten and excreted by weasels, and then cleaned for consumption. Its really popular, and is said to taste much better than not pooped out coffee. Cant wait for taste testing with the family! Henna and I got our nails done, which costs about $3. The lady convinced us to get a little wild, and Henna ended up getting minions painted on two of her fingers, and I got an elephant on one and a pizza on the other. Seemed like a good idea at the time!

The next day we went to the Remnants Museum and Unification palace. The museum was laid out quite nicely, and the exhibits did a great job at focusing on aspects of all angers of the war. The Agent Orange exhibit was pretty eye-opening and gruesome, but appropriately so. I had yet to consider the global reaction to the war, and this experience pushed me to do some reading of my own.

Remnant Museum in Ho Chi Minh

Remnant Museum in Ho Chi Minh

The next day we did a $9 day long tour of the Mekong Delta. The day was filled with honey and coconut candy tasting, seeing a floating market, bike riding, a music and dance show, trip down a river in a long boat, and more. It was really fun and beautiful to be on the water! It was pretty touristy but a very enjoyable experience. And after, Henna and I got a couples hot stone massage. Romantic! The rest of our time in Ho Chi Minh was spent walking around, taking in the sites, eating, and being really happy and loving life. I absolutely loved the country and will definitely be returning in the future. While Ho Chi Minh was wonderful, I would love to explore the north as well. I hear they also have delicious sandwiches there as well. On Monday, I came back at night (the others stayed) to do some classes. Thought Id go to school, I guess. Its been a great week, mostly because of some exciting news for my sister and myself! Sarah got an NSF fellowship to fund 5 years of graduate studies for chemical engineering! So incredibly proud of my kickass smartypants sister! And I was offered an internship at NASA as an environmental studies education intern at the Goddard Space Flight Center! Very excited for the summer! Tomorrow I leave for the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan, an island on the other side of the mainland. Ready for an awesome weekend with great friends!

Floating Market in Mekong Delta

Floating Market in Mekong Delta

Ride down the river

Ride down the river

Bike Ride in Vietnam

Bike Ride in Vietnam

Study time!

This past week was filled with exams and of course, pad thai and the beach. Exams went well, which is good because here, they can count anywhere from 25 to 40% of your grade. Classes operate once a week for three hours, as oppose to the three times a week for 50 minute schedule I am used to. While this allows for more group work and discussion, which is an integral part of the Thai curriculum, it challenges the average attention span greatly. Uniforms are required all the time, but are even more so regulated during the examination period. I had to go buy a replacement pin for my uniform so that I would be allowed into the exam rooms. Shopping! For exams, I actually had to study. This was a new but fun experience. I learned that cafes have coconuts. Like you go to a café and instead of saying yea id like a tall coffee you say yea id like to have a fresh coconut.

Also this week, a big ass white bird flew into my bike while driving. After much googling, it appears it was an egret. I’m not saying I ran into this bird. I’m saying ithis bird singled me out and flew INTO my bike. I swear we made eye contact and it just swooped in and flew into me. I did swerve and crash, but luckily the bike, the bird, and myself all drove/flew away completely fine.

In more animal news, a 3 meter black snake showed up in the front of our housing complex last week. Our landlord spotted it and declared that it was there because she hadn’t prayed enough. So she lit some candles, fed it some eggs, and prayed all night. So yea I am probably moving.

Me before I had to take exams

Me before I had to take exams

And that’s it for this week! Tomorrow I leave for Vietnam for five days, and am looking forward to delicious pho (hoping its phofabulous! Ill have a long flight to think of more hilarious puns don’t worry) and rolling hills! Catch up next week!

Adam Comes to Visit!

This past week has been absolutely perfect and filled with fun and adventure! Adam spent his spring break here, so I took some time off from school to explore the island and show him around my favorite place in the world! I picked him up Sunday morning, and we went straight to Chalong Pier for a day-long boat trip with 15 other exchange students. Driving the two of us and his bag on the motorbike was a little crazy, but I didn’t crash so all good. The boat went to Ko Ha, where we snorkeled and saw beautiful fish and a turtle! The captain set up the slide and rafts, and we also did some boat jumping. Everyone had a great time, and most of us agreed that it was our favorite day in Thailand thus far. No matter how many boat trips a person takes, its impossible to not be in awe of the beauty of the landforms, marine life, and crazy clear water.

On Monday, I took Adam to get a corn and rice McFlurry and his first massage, both musts for any visitor. We then went to Chalong Temple and Big Buddha, which requires a beautiful drive up a mountain. Monkeys and elephants scatter the path, as well as restaurants that are perfect for watching the sunset and eating ice-cream (which we did). We then went to Patong to walk around the night market, and had Pad Thai and papaya salad. I have been here almost three months, and I still get excited to have Thai food each meal. Especially when that meal is $2. When I spent a summer here, a lot of people asked if I ever got tired of the food. No. Impossible. Thai food is the best food on Earth (I am only a bit biased).

On Tuesday, we got up bright and early to go to Phi Phi! We did a half-day long tail boat trip, and visited Monkey Beach and Maya Bay. We did some snorkeling, and just enjoyed being out on the water. At night we had Mexican food (the riskiest thing I have done in Thailand so far) and experienced Phi Phi night life. The island is known for the beach bars, fire shows, buckets, and the limbo. I love sharing my experiences with friends back home, but it was so incredible to be able to have Adam experience it for himself. It seems that everyone falls in love with this country when they come, and I enjoyed getting to be a part of this connection to the land of smiles. We also hiked to the viewpoint on Phi Phi, but I took us a backwards way and we ended up walking 2,500 meters up the mountain. Whoops my bad!

We spent the next two days exploring beaches, eating as much Thai food as possible, driving around, hanging with friends, and being happy to live in paradise! Safe to say it was my favorite week of my semester. Not only was it great to see Adam, but I loved that he was able to meet my friends here and my friends here could see a bit of my life back home. I am truly in love with Phuket, and its nice to share my excitement with someone who has never experienced Thailand before. My sister and mom are coming up in May, and I will get to do it again! Adam left on Saturday, and we got a flat tire on the way to the airport at 6 am. Not the best, but it all worked out. This week is midterms, so I will spend most of my time studying, especially for my Thai class. I cant believe the semester is already half way over. Time is really flying. There are so many more things I want to do and see, so I will begin making sure I experience as much as possible and take advantage of everything I can!

Boat Jumping

Boat Jumping

Big Buddha

Big Buddha

Ice Bar on Bangla

Ice Bar on Bangla

Snorkeling in Ko Ha

Snorkeling in Ko Ha

Maya Bay

Maya Bay