Monday, December 17, 2007

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Day Events – Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda

The Royal Palace is a complex containing buildings which are the royal residence of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is "Preah Barom Reachea Vaeng Chaktomuk." The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1866, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The amazing Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is located at Sothearos between Streets 240 & 184. Cost for entrance is $3.00/person, $2.00/camera, $5.00/video camera. Be sure to wear a shirt that covers your shoulders, and no short skirts or shorts. If you do forget, they offer clothes you can either purchase or rent for the day. The Royal Palace is open everyday, 7:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Buddha statutes in the Royal Palace

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh was constructed over a century ago to serve as the residence of the King of Cambodia, his family and foreign dignitaries, as a venue for the performance of court ceremony and ritual and as a symbol of the Kingdom. It serves to this day as the Cambodian home of King Norodom Sihamoni and former King Norodom Sihanouk.

Small scale model of Angkor Wat

The Royal Palace also holds the world-renowned Silver Pagoda. To enter the Silver Pagoda you must first remove your shoes. Additionally, there are no photos in the Pagoda. It is named for the 5,000 silver tiles which are used to pave the temple's floor. Most of the floor is covered in a large rug to preserve its life. However, when you walk over the tiles, you can feel the move and squeak a bit. This really made me realize the magnitude not only of the structure’s composition but of the age as well. It was an amazing experience. The Silver Pagoda holds a life-size Buddha image of solid gold is a popular tourist attraction.

Silver Pagoda

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cambodia: Getting There and Getting Around

After our visit to Thailand, we decided to see the historical and cultural sights of Cambodia. From Bangkok, we flew to the Phnom Penh International Airport. The BKK airport offers a luggage storage room at a minimal charge. We opted to drop off most of our stuff and keep only the bare necessities.

The flight to Phnom Penh was short, and we arrived in the evening. Though I expected the temperature to be warm, I was not fully prepared for the heat wave that encompassed me when I stepped off the plane.

Just outside our hotel

Taxi drivers are everywhere, and I was definitely looking forward to the ride as it was my only chance for a breeze. It seems that everyone who owns any sort of transportation is a taxi driver. We agreed to use the taxi service of one man until we found out that he had only a small scooter, and hoped to fit us on the back, along with our luggage. That didn’t exactly work out. Though I have seen an entire family of 5 on a small scooter, I didn’t have the coordination required for such a feat.

Busy streets just outside of town

Next, we found a taxi driver who owned an automobile. However, he informed us that our hotel had burned down and that he would gladly take us to a great place he knew of. Since we had just booked the hotel the night before, we had a pretty good idea that the hotel had not burned down overnight.

Finally we found a man with a great little tuk-tuk. We jumped in and were off. We cruised through the streets that were busy with locals sitting and chatting near the ever-popular street vendor. Since most people living there don’t have air conditioning, they stay outdoors during the evening as it is much cooler. This adds to the interesting nightlife that Phnom Penh has to offer.

A view of downtown from the tuk-tuk

We made it to our hotel and checked in without any delay. We then ventured out for a SIM card for our phone. However, apparently in Cambodia you are not allowed to purchase a SIM card unless you can prove that you are a Cambodian citizen. But not to worry, for the right price, the locals will be glad to buy one for you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Packing list

Here is the packing list I used for my trip. If you forget something, check Watson's drug store or 7-Eleven, because they have all the essentials. Try to pack light because you will be sure to pick up some Thai apparel and handicrafts to bring back.
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Medicine
  • Nail clippers & file
  • Facial cleanser
  • Moisturizer
  • Cosmetics
  • Toothbrush
  • Zip locks
  • Books & Magazines
  • Journal
  • Digital Camera
  • Sunglasses & Eye glasses
  • Light-weight shirts & pants
  • Shorts
  • Swim wear
  • Trainers
  • Flip flops
  • Small day pack
  • Calculator
  • Copies of all docs
  • Credit card
  • Passport
  • Tickets
  • Cash
Remember to pack light and enjoy where ever your path may lead you!

Here, we were fully packed and heading from Siem Reap to Saigon. Notice we had only one backpack each!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thailand: Getting There

There are several airlines that fly to Thailand. We have taken China Airlines in the past and were very pleased. They afford the economy passengers the luxuries of flying first class with amenities such as slippers, mid-flight yoga instruction, and gourmet meals. If you have the option to have breakfast on China Airlines, definitely choose the congee. It is a rice porridge with bits of onion and chicken. It is so delightful and hard to believe it was served on a flight!

The gardens at BKK airport

Most flights in to Thailand go to Bangkok. The Bangkok airport (BKK) has just been revamped and is very easy to maneuver, and quite beautiful too. There are many restaurants and shops too. So don't fret if you have a layover in Bangkok. You can troll the Gucci store or grab a great dinner!

Display at the BKK airport

Once you get to Bangkok, you will need a connecting flight if you are traveling to Phuket or Koh Samui. There are a few airlines that fly directly from the States to Phuket and Koh Samui, but these flights are very expensive. Just book your ticket to Thailand, then hop a cheap domestic flight to your final destination.

From Bangkok to Phuket, we flew Bangkok Air, which offered a complimentary traveler lounge. The lounge was amazing! They had everything from comfortable couches to nap on, to a full assortment of snacks and drinks, to free internet! They even had sticky rice!!! I was in heaven! I would definitely travel Bangkok Air again!

Bangkok Airways traveler lounge

There are the options of buses or trains, but the domestic flights are so inexpensive it just doesn't make much sense to spend another 12 hours en route. Grab a Bangkok Airways flight, and get caught up on your email while you are waiting for take off!

The brightly colored Bangkok Airways plane

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thailand: Buying Guide -- Local Items

Thailand has a plethora of beautiful items you may want to take back home. From pearl from the Andaman Sea to handicrafts of all sorts, there are so many things to choose from! I really like buying the local items, as I call them, because I feel like I am supporting the people, and thus the country.

Some great items that I have found along the way include:

Pearls - You can find them everywhere, be it a necklace, a bracelet, earrings, or whatever you want. I purchased freshwater pearl in both natural color and black pearls and was very happy with the quality and price. I got the necklace and bracelet set for around $10 from a street vendor.

I also purchased a black pearl necklace and bracelet set, with the pearls being of slightly larger diameter for $12 from a vendor on Chaweng Beach. The vendor was so happy that it was the first sale of the day that he gave my boyfriend a bracelet made of shells and stones. I also purchased a pearl necklace that had three dangling pearls for only $3. These make great gifts to take back to family and only take up a small amount of space in your bag.

Black pearl set from Chaweng

Jewelry - Besides pearls, you can pick up a lot of different styles of very unique shell and stone jewelry. I bought some cute colored shell earrings for my friends for only $2 a pair. There is alot a lot of sterling silver jewelry to choose from.

Pearl bracelet from Pi Pi Island

Fisherman pants - Fisherman pants are one of the items that many tourists buy while in Thailand. These pants are hard to resist and the are the quintessential lounge pants. They generally have material on the sides that is tied in the front at the waist. Some are also draw string. These are comfy and great for a day at the beach or trekking through the islands.

Wearing fisherman pants while exploring Samui

Silk - You can't go to Thailand without buying silk. There are various silk items from scarves, to shirts, to bedspreads and pillow cases. I really wish I would have bought one of the bedspreads. I believe they were only around $25. I have been trying to find one in the States, but they go from $125-$200 here. So I think I will just wait until the next time I am in Thailand.

Thinking of getting a custom suit or dress made? See my previous article on Phuket... and beware!

Examining silk for custom dress

Handy crafts - The Thai people are very handy with the things their country offers them. They can craft so many beautiful and unusual items from bamboo! There are various decorative items, such as votive holders and bowls. They also carve Buddhist designs into wood and then brush a bit of gold paint on the top. They are really beautiful and I wish I would have bought one to hang on my wall! If you are looking to decorate you home, Thailand offers so many options at a very affordable price!

Wooden pose carving from Samui

Wooden elephant carving from Bangkok

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thailand: Buying Guide -- Knock-offs

Thailand does offer some pretty nice knock-offs. Here are some items that seemed to be of good quality, and quite popular among tourists:

Modeling a Prada hobo bag
  • Lacoste polo shirts: There were a great buy at about $10 and available in every color you can think of.
  • DVDs: There are also bootlegged copies of DVDs for about $4 each. They seemed to be pretty good quality. There are also a ton of video games for cheap.
  • 7 for All Mankind: Ladies, be sure to grab some 7 for All Mankind jeans! I saw the traditional bootcut and A pocket, both go for about $30.
  • Louis Vuitton: There are some pretty good Louis Vuitton items.
  • Gucci: There are some good... some bad. Be careful.

Gucci duffel bag from a Patong vendor
  • Prada: There are some nice purses but be sure the check the fixtures to make sure they are sturdy. If you want to know if a purse if leather, ask the vendor to put a flame to it. If it is real leather, it won't melt. Vendors usually love to do this to show off their leather wares.
  • Perfume: You can get various brands for $10 a bottle. Be sure to smell the sampler first because some of the scents aren't exactly what they were labeled. But still a great buy.

Lots of video games and DVDs

***It is important to know that the fakes come in different grades, so look around because if you are going to spend some money, you should get something that won't fall apart after the first use.

Ed Hardy hat - $9 from a street vendor in Samui

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pad Thai Recipe

Pad Thai was originally developed in Bangkok to serve busy office workers with fast, nutritious and delicious food to eat during their breaks. You will still find it being served at street vendors and most restaurants.

Variations of this Thai favorite can be seen on menus across the country. Thai taste can be defined as the use of all 5 flavors: spicy, sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Only Thai cuisine brings out all of these flavors to play together harmoniously in a meal, and Pad Thai is no exception!

Thai Street Vendor


1/2 package (16oz) wide rice noodles
2 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
3 eggs
1/4 lb. pork, cut into 1" by 1/4" pieces
3 tbsp. dried small shrimps
2 tbsp. salted radish, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. thin soy sauce
2 1/2 tbsp. coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, crush in a mortar & pestle or chop with a chef's knife
Lime for garnish

  1. Boil 3 cups of water. Pour over noodles in a large bowl and soak for 20 minutes until softened. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in wok, until hot but not smoking. Add smashed garlic. Add pork. Fry until meat is no longer pink.
  3. Add eggs and stir until cooked, combining with pork.
  4. Add noodles, dried shrimps, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and bean sprouts. Stir fry for another 3 to 4 minutes until mixed up and heated through.
  5. Add salted radish, if using (rinse if very salty). Stir fry another minute. Toss in the peanuts, tossing to mix.
  6. Garnish with lime and serve.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Night Events: Khao San Road

Khao San Road

Khao San is a street filled with little bars and restaurants and lined with vendors as well. You can buy anything from frames for your glasses for $5, to hair clips and earrings, to bugs. That's right, bugs... you have a choice of worms, maggots, and some type of beetle. We opted for the tourists variety pack (tourist in that the locals won't come close to this snack). They are baked, probably in the sun, until they are crispy.

Bug Buffet

They are kept in metal containers under a heat lamp to make you feel as if they were actually cooked. Just before serving the tourist these lovely treats, they are sprayed with a brown liquid, which I think is something like soy sauce. Then they are doused with salt. All I will say is... if you are going to try these, be sure to have some water on hand, because they don't go down so smooth!

Khao San is a backpacker's paradise. This has been the meeting grounds for backpacker's exploring South East Asia for some time now. The street is about 1km long and has everything from hotels, to travel agencies, to clubs, bars, restaurants, and market stalls. You can find the entire inventory of a clothing store on display. I can't imagine how long it takes to assemble and disassemble the "store" as it is only on the street for night sales.

This was a fun place to go because everything you could ever think of is within reach. If you are looking to meet fellow tourists, this should be your first stop!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Night Events: Bars


Bangkok boasts a variety of bars and nightclubs. We visited the Q Bar. It was a pretty good time but didn't pick up until pretty late into the night. So I guess this would be the last stop if you are hopping. Q Bar brings in a lot of tourists because of live djs and cheap drinks (in US standards). It is a fun way to spend a night out on the town.

Q Bar

If you are hungry when you head home, hit the 7-Eleven. We, again mistakingly, asked our tuk tuk driver if there were any restaurants open. He drove us to a gamey smelling seafood restaurant that was severely over-priced.

Again an example of the tuk tuk drivers and the vendors being in cahoots. My advise to you, if you have a day to just spend driving around, feel free to ask the driver for his opinion, but beware if he takes you somewhere, you are bound to use the services, be it a store, restaurant, or tour.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Night Events: Patpong Night Market

Patpong Night Market

Here you will find knock off everything from Tiffany, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, to course loads of Diesel. If you are interested in buying fakes, do buy in moderation, as the Lanham Act (US) steeply penalizes possession or distribution of knock-offs. I have not heard of a tourist being busted with a fine or jail time, but I have heard that the items will be confiscated. The prices at the market are cheap, but you do have to deal with the locals who are peddling goods and just may push you to the edge.

The faint of temperament should not visit this night market as you will find it quite vulgar. Men will try to sell you tickets to X-rated shows and ask you to try on various clothes or buy DVDs. It doesn't seem to matter if you are there with a guy, they continuously flock you for business. No matter how many times you tell them you are not interested, they follow you for blocks... not to mention the go-go dancers that beg you to come to their shows.

Patpong Night Market

In the end, I found it to be a memorable experience. I would encourage others to check out the Patpong area, if nothing else, for the shock factor alone. It is a must see in Bangkok. Go with an idea of what you want to purchase and that makes the experience all the better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sticky Rice & Mango Recipe

Thai desserts are called 'kanom' in Thailand. Sticky rice and mango is a marketplace favorite and not to be missed if you visit the country! It is my favorite!


2 cups glutinous (sticky) rice, soaked in cold water for at least one hour and drained
2 cups coconut milk, canned or freshly prepared
A pinch of salt
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 large ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced


  1. In a saucepan bring to a boil: rice, 1 1/4 cups coconut milk, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 1/4 cup water. Stir.
  2. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, about 8-10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer rice to a steamer or double saucepan and steam 15-20 minutes over boiling water, until rice is cooked through.
  4. While rice is cooking, take the rest of the coconut milk (3/4 cup) and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and bring to a boil. Then remove and place in separate bowl for garnish.
  5. Mold the cooked rice into individual ramekins or small cups lined with plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature.
  6. At serving time unmold onto a plate and top with mango. Drizzle with coconut milk mixture you made earlier.

Sticky rice and mango served at a street vendor in Phuket

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Cinema


Need a break from the Bangkok heat? Try catching a movie at the Bangkok cinema. The VIP seats entitle you to a plush velvet couch, fully equipped with cup holders and trays. They even offer blankets.

VIP Seats at the Major Cineplex

Their snack and beverage options are endless. You can get popcorn and a soda, or shrimp chips with a beer. We went to the Major Cineplex on the mall. VIP tickets were only about 250 baht.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson House

Jim Thompson was an American business man who helped revitalize Thailand's silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. The house is filled with Thai artifacts. But if you are just looking to purchase some Thai silk products, you can find them at the night markets in Bangkok for much cheaper. The cost to tour the house is 1,000 baht per person.

Jim Thompson House

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Snake Farm

Snake Farm

The snake farm was not on my agenda, but it was one of the stops on our canal tour. It was an interested show to say the least. When we walked in, we passed a man with a huge snake draped over his arms and shoulders and touching the floor. I mistakingly assumed it was a toy, but in fact, it was real. Only in Thailand.

The snake "arena" was surrounded by tiny cages of snakes with their breed written with a marker on the glass. There was also an area with crocodiles. There was no top to the cage and the walls were only about 4 foot tall. Indeed a strange set-up, and again... only in Thailand. We saw a few birds and a couple mammals, then on to the snake show.

Snake Show... eek!

Here, four men pranced around a small ring holding a large snake, probably over 10 feet in length. Then they proceeded to milk venom and collect it in a small glass jar. It was a little scary just to be so close in proximity to the snakes, but the locals didn't seem to mind. The entrance fee was about 400 baht per person. I am not necessarily recommending the farm, but it was an interesting experience.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Canal Tour & Floating Market

Canal Tour

A canal tour down the Chao Phraya River is another way to spend a few hours of your day in Bangkok. But don't expect a Venetian cruise. We got roped into the cruise because we made the mistake of blindly asking our tuk tuk driver what we should see. Since the tuk tuk drivers are on contract with many of the restaurants, shops, and other vendors, not only did he take us to the "port" but left us there. Needless to say, there was not a lot going on in that area, so we took the overpriced tour. We jetted down a mud-filled waterway.

The sights along the way were children jumping into the water, houses on stilts, a snake show and laundry being dried in the polluted air. Our tour ended by the Grand Palace, but by that time, the Palace was closed for the day. The tour lasted about 30 minutes and was 1,000 baht per person.

Canal Tour - the little boys were doing flips for us!

Though it certainly was not a luxurious cruise across turquoise waters, it was a nice opportunity to experience the Thai culture.

Floating Market

The floating market of Bangkok was on my to-do list and one of the reasons we initially agreed to the canal tour. However, the floating market does not really exist any longer. We saw two women selling drinks and fans on a boat, but that was it. Be cautious of tours that offer to show you the floating market. Though it may sound appealing, it is likely a ploy to get you on the over-priced canal tour.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bangkok, Thailand - Day Events: Grand Palace

Like every city in Thailand, there are definitely sights to see during the day, and a completely different list of venues for the evening. The next few posts will cover day events for Bangkok.

Grand Palace
During the day, I would recommend visiting the Grand Palace. The Palace dates back to 1782, and was constructed during the reign of Rama I. From the 18th to the mid-20th Century, the Palace served as the official residence for the King. The Palace is surrounded by tall walls and canals in order to protect the royal family.

Grand Palace

Cost for entrance is 700 baht per person and it is open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Don't be surprised if you are hassled by kids before you enter the Palace. This is a huge tourist site, which also means masses of little solicitors.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Travel Insurance: Do you really need it?

Do you really need to get travel insurance for your vacation? The simple answer is that it is totally up to you. However, there are inexpensive options for insurance that are available. I used Other online travel insurance companies are Travelex and Travel Guard.

Based on a 2 week vacation, the insurance policies start at about $14. Some policies cover lost or delayed baggage and emergency evacuation expenses, while others only cover emergency medical expenses. Luckily I have never had to use my policy, so I don't have any personal knowledge as to filing a claim. However, travel insurance is a low cost for the piece of mind you get in knowing you are covered in the event of an emergency.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Green Papaya Salad Recipe

1 medium dark green papaya
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves (kratiem)
6 green Thai chilies (prik khee noo)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup chopped green beans, in 1-in pieces
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) lime juice or tamarind juice (ma-kaam piag)
1/4 cup dried baby shrimp (optional)
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts (optional)

*Note: You can substitute Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce rather than chilies, sugar, and vinegar.

1. Peel the papaya and rinse with running water to remove the acid. Remove the seeds and shred the papaya with a grater. Set aside.

Shredded papaya

2. Place the garlic cloves and the chilies in a mortar and mash with a pestle until crushed into chunks. Place the papaya and the remaining ingredients in the mortar and gently combine all ingredients by mixing with the pestle and a spoon. Top with dried shrimp and peanuts. Serve cold.

Ready to serve!

Thai Food Translations

Here are translations for some of my favorite Thai foods. Enjoy!

Pad Thai – a stir fried rice noodle dish with meat and vegetables .
  • Pad Thai is the "tourist dish" and is served at nearly every restaurant. It is generally very mild since it is made for the tourists taste buds. Add a little sriracha for a spicy flavor. Sriracha is the Thai version of ketchup some say, but I found it to be much more of a vinegar and pepper flavor.
Laad Naa – Egg noodles vegetable and the meat of your choice served in a gravy sauce.
Paad See Eiw – Egg noodles stir fried with greens and in soy sauce. (salty)
Gy yahng, som-tahm, kaho neeo – Bar-b-que chicken, papaya salad and sticky rice. Very popular in open air restaurants.
Moo yahng – Bar-b-que pork. (mild)

A variety of fresh grilled meats at a local street vendor in Patong

Gy pahd med mamuang- Chicken stir-fried cashew nuts. (mild)
Gy pahd joht kaho pod- Chicken stir-fried with babycorn. (mild)
Gaang kioo wann gy- Chicken curry with bamboo. (varies)
Gaang gy- Chicken curry with coconut. (varies)

  • The chicken curry with coconut was one of our favorites. You really feel like you are on vacation when you incorporate coconut into every meal! Just a light coconut flavor and a creamy sauce with enough spice to give it a little punch.
  • The chicken stir-fry was good, but not what you expect from either cashew chicken or stir fry. A little bland for my liking, but great if your tummy need a break from all the spice.

Gaang pet gy sapparot- Chicken curry with pineapple. (varies)
Satey gy- Chicken satay with peanut sauce. (mild)
Gy pahd preeoh wahn- Chicken sweet and sour. (mild)
Tom Yum- Soup with lemongrass and coconut milk; served with chicken or prawn. (varies)

  • The chicken sweet and sour came with a sweet and spicy sauce and fresh tomatoes. A very light version of what I am use to being soaked with oil (in the States).
  • The Tom Yum is a little different at every restaurant, but I always seemed to welcome the change. Sometimes more salty and sometimes a bit more sweet from the coconut milk. Also a very light dish. The lemongrass is so fresh. A wonderful soup.
Gaang pet moo sapparot- Pork curry with pineaple. (varies)
Gaang goong sapparot- Prawn curry with pineaple. (varies)
Bamee pahd gy- Fried noodles with chicken. (mild)
Paht paak ruamit- Stir fried vegetables. (mild)
Papaya Salad - shredded green papaya, chopped green beans, tomato, dried prawns, unsalted roasted peanuts, chillies, garlic and lime juice (spicy)

Enjoying Papaya Salad (again!) at BKK airport

  • This is one of my favorites. I ordered it everywhere! It is a great mix of sweet, salty, and spicy.
  • If you want a dish not so spicy, tell they waiter "my ow pet"
Goong grathiem prik- Thai Prawns with garlic and chiles. (spicy)
Yam nuea- Beef salad. (spicy)
Gaang garrei neua- Yellow curry with beef. (mild)
Khao Neeo Mah Muang fantastic if in season. Sweet mangos served with sweet sticky rice topped with coconut cream.

Sticky rice with mango!

  • The mango and sticky rice is phenomenal but generally hard to come by. Most restaurants don't serve it, so check the nearby street vendors. It is a Thai delight you don't want to miss!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Koh Samui, Thailand -– Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party
A few years ago, a group of tourists and the owner of Paradise Bungalow found that the most beautiful moon was in Koh Phangan. They arranged a party along the crescent-shaped beach of Haad Rin to celebrate the Full Moon night. From then on, people from all over the world came to join the celebration. And now there are 7,000-10,000 people at the party each month. Check the link for the Full Moon Party for more information and dates.

Unfortunately, we weren't there for the party, but attended the Black Moon Party. The Black Moon Party attracts over 1,500 people. It takes place 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after each full moon. This party is decorated with fluorescent lights and hosts resident DJs playing drum and bass. Also, very fun!

Koh Samui, Thailand – Snorkeling

Koh Tao & Koh Nangyuan are popular islands for snorkeling. Book these in advance through your hotel or the tour company directly, and don't be ashamed to ask for a better rate, because it is all about bargaining. Tours leave early, and provide a light breakfast.

Up close and personal

Generally, the tours include both islands, as well as lunch on Koh Tao, or "Turtle Island." We had a fabulous time. Be sure to take your underwater camera because there is a potential for some great shots. The tour guide will give you bread to feed the fish and they will eat it right out of your hand. You can feel their tiny little mouths. Fun, but a little scary too.

A view from Koh Nangyuan

Koh Nangyang has a very unique three-strand beach, which was formed by the ocean's current interacting with the three small islands. There is a resort on the island, Nangyuan Island Dive Resort, if you are interested in spending more time there.

Snorkeling at Koh Nangyuan

The tours will include a life vest and all snorkeling equipment, but feel free to bring yours because the equipment provided is very worn. You have the option of using a life vest, but the water is so salty that you float well. Our instruction, Liam, took us on little tours and pointed out different fish by using hand signals. He then had a book to show us pictures of the fish with the names. It was crazy to see the fish that we had just been swimming with!

Hungry fish loving the bread

Koh Samui, Thailand -– Island Trekking

Island Trekking

Since Samui is such a tiny island, you can easily drive around the island in a day. There are many rental stores. We rented a small jeep for the day for $15. You can also rent a moped for $5 a day. However, if you are planning on driving around the island, I would opt for the jeep because traffic is insane. There are no age requirements to rent, but they will hold your credit card until you return with the vehicle. Though a small island, there are many things to do and see on Samui. Pick up a map from your rental store, and you are good to go!

Our island SUV

Big Buddha
If you are starting your trek in Chaweng Beach and heading North, Big Buddha will be your first stop. Big Buddha is a 12 meter high gold Buddha statue. There are also several Buddha statues surrounding Big Buddha on the upper level. You will see a reclining Buddha, which is the pose taken just before death. This is more than a Buddhist attraction, but is actually a temple used by the locals, so keep this in mind and be sure to wear something over your shoulders.

Big Buddha

After Big Buddha, you may be ready for some lunch. Check out Nathon Beach. Though it is not a typical tourist beach, the food is amazing. There will be several restaurants along the road you will be traveling on. If you want to venture off the main road, head to the beach where you will find traditional, brightly-colored, Thai fishing boats. After lunch in Nathon, you can either continue to loop around the South side of the island, or trek to the interior. We took the second option.

Nathon Beach

Nathon Restaurant

NaMuang Waterfall
Na Muang Waterfall is located 10 km south from Nathon at Ban Thurian. There are 2 waterfalls.The first is 18 meter high and can be reached by vehicle. The second is about 80 meters high and can only be reached by a 30 minute walk. The waterfalls are the most scenic on the island.

Small waterfall

We were able to find the first waterfall and it was beautiful. Thai children were using it as a water slide and sliding down the moss coated rocks. While checking out the waterfalls, you may also want to take a scenic tour, via elephant.

Elephant Trekking
Very close to the waterfalls, you will find a couple venues for elephant trekking. This was an interesting experience, but the ride was fairly short. The locals are great about letting you "drive" and taking pictures of you on the elephant. It was fun, but also sad to see the elephants with chains on their legs to keep them from running.

Elephant trekking

I couldn't help to think that these big guys would rather be running in the wild. But it looked like the Thai people treated the elephants well, and perhaps even took care of them better than they did themselves.

We did the Samui Safari Nature Tours. It was 1,200 baht for a 30 minute guided trek.

Grandmother and Grandfather Rock
Before you head back to the hotel, don't miss Hin Ya and Hin Ta, or Grandmother and Grandfather Rock. Strangely shaped rocks at south Lamai. A local story tells of an old couple whose ship was wrecked in the bay. Their body's were washed ashore to create the rocks. Amazing how vulgar these rocks are, but definitely worth seeing!

Grandfather Rock