For 2013, this was my favorite audiobook. This audiobook is an entirely different experience from most others. The author, Max Brooks, is a voice actor himself, and makes for a fantastic narrator. Then, to make it even better, all the different characters in the book are different people/voices!
It’s things like this, that makes audiobooks sometimes far more superior to the book itself. After the book ended, I wanted more! If they ever did a mini-series or a movie following the actual events in the book, that’d be pretty awesome (Instead of whatever movie they made instead).
1984 by George Orwell, and narrated by Simon Prebble. I was supposed to have read this in High School, but I think I can appreciate it so much more now…especially with the Snowden saga.
It’s a classic, for all the right reasons. It’s powerful, a great story, and it’s not that long. Also to consider, the narrator is great. “Big Brother,” “Thought Police” are both terms that we still use today. To think that it originated from (or at least became more popularized) by this book. As technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, and we rely more on it, I think the concepts in this book will be even more relevant to all of us.
Thailand is a fun place. We know it was famous for its beaches, but we were happy to explore the countryside and the great outdoors. By doing so, we really got to experience Thailand, and get a feel for the warmth of the people.
A few surprises for me:
- The big city, Bangkok, was not enjoyable (at least, for me)
- Their English was surprisingly pretty good
- Amongst other tourists we met, I would say the majority came from Northern Europe/Scandinavian countries
- Thai massages are nice, but it hurts!
- I heard it was affordable, but still shocked (how cheap it was)
Quick Summary of the Trip:
Our favorite part was the elephants. If we were to come back, we’d probably spend more time (at least a few days) volunteering at the Elephant Sanctuary. It would also be great to go further into Thailand to Chiang Rai.
My last day in Thailand, was spent it hanging out in public; in the market, in the park.
First, I went to the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market (TripAdvisor). I was awed by all the things that were sold – very crazy. Along the same lines there was some awesome ice cream and street food :). This place is MASSIVE.
Second, I went to Lumpini Park (TripAdvisor). It was alright, but it pales in comparison to Central Park. I could see myself going for a jog there if I was there longer.
Overall, Thailand was a blast. Highly recommended.
Leaving Chiang Mai, we have one more full day in Bangkok. Instead of going to temples and seeing the “historic” things, we decided to see the more modern parts of the city.
Escape Hunt (TripAdvisor). It’s new in Bangkok, and a fairly new concept for people in Thailand, but it was very well done. The owner comes from Europe (I think London), and puts together a pretty fun whodunit, Sherlock Holmes activity. You won’t have to worry about knowing any Thai, it’s completely set to an English audience. If we had a similar activity like this in the states (or in NY), I think it would do very well.
VIP movie – This, I believe is a Thailand only experience. I read about this luxury movie experience (link), and decided to go to one of their many malls that support this. At the Siam Paragon mall (TripAdvisor) (BTS: Siam), we went to the Paragon Cineplex. It was really neat. We got a 15 minute massage, cappuccino, and a dessert before the movie. Then for the movie, we got to sit down on a chair able to recline all the way back, with flavored popcorn and a large soda brought to our seat. It’s a combination of a movie + a business first class airline seat. Highly recommended. Just remember to pay respects to the king and queen at the beginning of the movie (similar to the national anthem at a ballgame in the states).
Check out their crazy malls. They have a lot. Just go to BTS: Siam, and you can look spend hours looking around. MBK Center (TripAdvisor), Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Siam Discovery (TripAdvisor). It’s quite an experience…I don’t think you get to see malls like that in the states.
Last, their crazy rooftops. At 60+ floors, with a wide-open rooftop, it’s a cool chance to see the entire city. The two famous ones are Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree hotel (TripAdvisor) or Sky Bar (TripAdvisor). They do have a dress-code, pants and close-toe shoes. Though, if you have sandals, they will let you borrow some “spare” shoes they have lying around.
Our last full day in Chiang was spent with the monkeys. We saw some TV specials on this, and thought it’d be interesting. Flight of the Gibbons (TripAdvisor) is another adventure, where the day is spent ziplining through the rain forest. Pretty neat, you do actually get to see some Gibbons up close, though not as many as I would’ve liked. But, still pretty neat.
After ziplining, we still had some time, and when we got back into town, we decided to go up to the nearby mountain temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (wikipedia). Here you can get a pretty good view of the entire city.
My favorite part of the trip.
Elephant Nature Park (TripAdvisor, wikipedia), is a sanctuary for domesticated Asian elephants. They have received numerous awards, been in tons of documentaries, and have been written about all over the world. The founder, Lek, is pretty amazing and we were fortunate that we got to meet her while we were there. They’re trying to change the country’s culture and tradition about the treatment of these amazing creatures. I didn’t know Elephants were so smart, it’s incredible.
When we come to Thailand again, this is where I’d come back to. And most likely do one of their 7 day volunteer experiences. For those coming to Chiang Mai, I would highly recommend spending at least 2 days (including overnight) here in Elephant Nature Park.
Our 3rd day in Thailand, second in Chiang Mai was spent adventuring.
We spent the morning rafting their best river (at the time, only class 4s, later in the year they have class 5s). And in the afternoon, we ATV’ed around the countryside. We used this outfitter, Chiang Mai Adventure, that we found out from the place we were staying (TripAdvisor).
It was a lot of fun. It reminded me that I need to find more ways to ATV and white water raft in the states.
At night, we checked out the Chiang Mai Night Market (TripAdvisor). Interesting, and something fun to do at night. Though, I wouldn’t necessarily plan anything around it.
Khao Soi is a dish that’s a speciality of Northern Thailand
NOTE: I made the one pictured, and it was delicious
After one full day of Bangkok, we had to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So instead of more common beach destinations (Koh Samui, or Phuket), we traveled to Chiang Mai (wikipedia). The former capital of the Lanna Kingdom. I’m not much of a beach person, and I generally prefer adventure, outdoors, and mountains. And here in Chiang Mai, there is an abundance of all that.
The first day was mostly spent walking around the city. Doing so, one can notice that there’s a number of these Thai cooking classes.
We went to this one, Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School. It got good reviews in both Lonely Planet and in TripAdvisor, and figured we couldn’t go wrong. And, it was great. Most of these cooking schools have a full day option, where you go from morning till late afternoon, cooking 6 different courses or so. We chose to just do the evening course (3 dishes). The nice part about these cooking classes, most will pick you up from your lodging and drop you back off.
We highly recommend this place, Chiang Mai Thai House (TripAdvisor). It’s a convenient spot in the city, and the travel manager was for me, very helpful in planning our time in Chiang Mai.
For the first day, we chose to go old school. It wasn’t as exciting, but figured, that was the “traditional” thing to do:
- Grand Palace and Emerald Buddah – The standard touristy/cultural thing to do. Probably the most number of tourists in all of the visited areas.
- Reclining Buddah – I’ve never seen a reclining Buddah before. And it’s massive.
- Wat Arun – This was my favorite of the temples in Bangkok. You can take a bunch of stairs and get a good view of the river/Bangkok
- Boat ride on the Chao Phraya River – There will be a ton of options to do the boat rides. Many places will try to “sell” you a private boat tour. I’d personally recommend just going to one of the many docks and taking the standard boat taxi. It’s super cheap (< $2 USD) and you get the same views.
- Tuk-tuk ride – This is where it gets interesting. There are these “scams” where some English-speaking locals will introduce themselves as being a professor of the local university, or mention that someone they know is at your university. Then, they will give “advice” on what to do and where to go. There, they will get you to talk to a tuk-tuk driver to drive you around town for seemingly very cheap (~10B). Often, they will say it’s a weekend special rate for tourists (of course, it’s every weekend). The tuk-tuk driver will take you around to a few touristy areas, but also drop you off at a number of custom tailor shops (yes, plural), where the super aggressive sales rep will try to get you to buy a custom tailored suit. From my perspective, the “local university professor” must get a cut for referring tourists to these tuk-tuk drivers. The tuk-tuk drivers then get “gas cards” from the custom tailor shops to bringing in these tourists. It’s a very healthy and vibrant referral system. That being said…
- Get ripped off at a custom tailor shop – It’s actually a pretty interesting experience to be a part of this “scam.” I read about this in Lonely Planet, and it looked kinda fun to go through the process. It’ll take an extra hour or two, but just be really cheap to the custom tailors and you’ll leave the stores very quickly. At the same time, the tuk-tuk drivers do keep their word and drive you to a number of local attractions. We had our tuk-tuk driver take us around to the local temples. So for a slight saving from a taxi (they’re not very expensive to begin with), you also get an interesting experience. According to TripAdvisor, these are the high quality ones.
- Get a massage – Compared to the US, I would say it’s very cheap. We went to a chain called Health Land, and for < $10 USD, you can get an hour Thai massage.
- Park Plaza in Sukhumvit – It may not be the most “traditional” but it was pretty solid. Amazing customer service, excellent central location – close to both the subway and air train, very clean, and well priced. If you take a look at the TripAdvisor reviews, the manager responds to EVERY single one. I actually regret not staying here my entire time in Bangkok.
- Go for street food 🙂
- Thip Samai – Here’s a good writeup from another blogger. Bottom line: delicious pad thai, from what I’ve read it’s an institution that’s been around for a while in Bangkok, and compared to US prices, suuuper cheap.