Work Hard, Play Hard

I’d be lying if I said I made it to every class but I have learned so much and could not have asked for a better, more authentic experience. I have nothing but great reviews about the facility and staff, who pushed me beyond my imaginary limits. So what did I do while I was playing hookie from Muay Thai? I drove along the breathtaking coastline and swam through the jade waters at Surin beach.

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40 minutes from Tiger Muay Thai, Surin beach is a true gem of Phuket. While Patong beach is regularly crowded, Surin offers a peaceful alternative. The sky was slightly overcast but the water was still warm. The scenic drive alone would have been worth the distance, but playing in the water was a sweet cherry on top. Parking was abundant and the beach itself was relatively clean.

The tide was very strong, and it was truly a magical day. I am an avid fan of beaches, but beyond my bias I believe the oceans hold the some of the greatest powers of emotional and mental healing. I’ve never known someone who can stand in front of such vastness and not be effected in some way. My mother hates going to the beach, but during some bad days prior to my parents divorce, we sat in the sand on multiple occasions.

Soi Ta-iad was starting to feel like home. Every day, we ate at restaurants up and down the street. We shopped for groceries. We did our laundry. Some days, we drove up to Central Festival Mall for dinner. It was so comfortable and I will absolutely be back. But for now, our time in Thailand has come to an end, and it has gone above and beyond it’s purpose.

As fate would have it, this is not the end of our journey. Sam and I never travel with a plan. It can be stressful at times, not knowing which country you’ll be heading to next. (Can that really be counted as stress though?) Take your guesses.

Tiger Training

We awoke to a rainy morning and quickly packed our things to prepare for the busy day ahead. At around 10am, we took a taxi to The Siam Hostel and got our things settled before heading out to find gear. I had lucked out and found a great deal on gloves at SuperSports in the Central Festival Mall, but I still needed shin pads and Sam needed both shin pads and gloves. Despite being an inexpensive country to travel in, the markups on gear made it close to US price, if not higher. I would recommend bringing gear from the US if possible, but if not, the low price of the classes makes overpaying for gear really not seem so bad.

We also went to Tesco Lotus to stock up on some food for the week. Classes would be going on throughout most of the day, and they began at 7am, before most places opened for breakfast. The street was lined with storefronts selling all kinds of gear. We ended up purchasing our shin pads for 1200 baht, my 12oz gloves for 550 baht, and Sam’s 16oz gloves for 1600 baht.

We went to bed early the night before training and set our alarms for 6am. I went through several scenarios in my head as I fell asleep but little did I know, nothing could really prepare me for what I had signed up for the next day.

I was tired in the morning when the alarm woke us, but my excitement quickly took over. I ate a banana as we walked to class and cleared my head. I payed special attention to stay as present as possible throughout the class to absorb as much as possible. I arrived at the outdoor training area and found two or three students running in a circle. The instructor motioned for us to join the circle and so the class began.

We ran for about 20 minutes, adding different variants to the laps closer to the end. By the time we were finished, I was already drenched in sweat from the humid weather. The instructor stood on a wood platform in front of the class and began to describe the punches we would be practicing, giving each of them a number he would say during combinations. He fittingly called himself Mr. Miyagi, a very special soul. We practiced punches and kicks for about a half hour, as other coaches walked around the room correcting student’s form. We stopped to get water before we were taught fighting strategies. We paired up with other students around our size and practiced pulling and pushing them into submissive positions. It wasn’t long before we were training one on one with coaches, they called out numbers as we performed the corresponding punches and kicks. Then we did bag work, doing push ups and sit ups in between each set. 15 minutes before the end of class we stood up and said our name and where we were from. I assumed the exhaustion was over until Mr. Miyagi gave us 100 more push ups and 300 more sit ups to do. As if that weren’t enough on it’s own, coaches walked around the room with pads, hitting students in the stomach as they did their sit ups to break down stomach facia. I thought I was going to be sick.

We walked back to our hotel room exhausted, unsure of how we were going to complete the second class in just a few hours. I just got my butt kicked, I thought as I could barely stand in the cool shower. My muscles were already starting to ache but somehow, I mustered the strength to complete another grueling two hour class in the heat. It was the beginning of a very long week…

Bus Rides and Ocean Vibes

It truly felt like an eternity before the InterTop made it’s wide turn into the bus terminal. There are two bus terminals in Phuket one in the center of town and one farther north. We ended up at the one further out of town and ended up taking a taxi for 400 baht into town. The taxi driver dropped us off at a central location
and we walked to a place called the Waffle House for some food and free Wifi. We ended up finding a hotel on special just across the street called The Quil. It had a great city loft style with a 50s flare. The concrete floors and tall ceilings kept the room cool and for USD $19 a night it was a steal. IMG_9794
The next morning we rented a motorbike for 300
baht to check out what part of Phuket we wanted to be in. We drove about 30 minutes to Patong beach, an extremely
popular tourist destination, crowded with vendors and travelers. We walked around and grabbed a
smoothie from a drink bar run by a very happy French man. It was hot, but there was a slight breeze and the sky was overcast. We drove along the coast and took in some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever ex
perienced. As we rode our motorbike along the cliffs edge overlooking the ocean, I couldn’t help but ask myself, how is this my life??!

We had one more stop before we would head back to the hotel, Tiger Muay Thai. Tiger offers training for all levels of Muay Thai and having always wanted to try a martial art, I was intrigued. We toured the facilities and looked into pricing. It was located in fitness heaven, the entire street lined with all kinds of gyms and every flavor of protein shake you could want. The weekly rate for the program we were interested in was just under USD 100. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. We spent the next couple hours pricing out weekly rates at the hotels along the street. We decided on the Siam Hostel, which was USD 17 per night. We would spend tomorrow preparing for our class and begin the following day.

The drive to the hotel felt short as I marinated in my excitement for the upcoming experience. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would leave an impact. Here I am at 21 years old living out dreams I never knew could even exist in fantasy. I’m in awe of this life.

A Day in Hat Yai

It took 9.5 hours, but we made it to Hat Yai safely!

No one can expect a great nights sleep on a bus, but it wasn’t so bad. We chose Inter Top, one of the nicer “executive” bus options, which cost us roughly USD 12 per person. The seats reclined to a decent level and there was a bar to rest your feet on, under the seat in front of you. However, there was no bathroom on the bus, which was extremely inconvenient for those who like to stay hydrated during the night. There were no pillows or blankets on the bus, so I curled up in my seat and used my jacket as a pillow and Sam shared his sleeping bag with me, which we used as a blanket. Without the two, I wouldn’t have slept a wink. Come prepared.

We were woken up several times from 4am onward as we stopped for gas and crossed borders. Our bus wasn’t full, but ours was one of several to be crossing the border in the early morning, so we did have to wait in line for about 45 minutes before we got back on the road. We ended up making it into town at around 9 am.

When we finally arrived in Hat Yai, we posted up at a Starbucks to make some plans for the rest of our stay. We ended up staying at V-Ocean Palace. It was a fair value for the price and in a safe section of town. The hotel unfortunately ended up being my favorite part of Hat Yai. After checking in, we took some showers and rested up from our long night of travels before heading out to find some dinner and finding bus tickets to Phuket.

It was raining when we woke up so we took a TukTuk to a small shopping center closer into town to get some lunch. Through a “miscommunication” (rip off), we ended up paying the TukTuk double what he had quoted us, it took us nearly four hours to find lunch, it was raining, and Sam was catching a cold. We were frustrated, desperate for a fresh meal, and tired from having walked all over town. Everywhere we went it seemed the locals just wanted to make an extra buck and we went back to our hotel without bus tickets for the next day to Phuket. We spent the evening with a couple jugs of orange juice and made the plan to arrive at the bus station the next morning and hope for the best.

We arrived at the bus station at 8:30am, and as luck would have it, the next bus was departing at 9am. It was a double stacked executive bus with a bathroom and about half the price of what we were being quoted in town. We got some drinks and snacks and boarded the bus shortly after 9. 7.5 hours later, we arrived in Phuket…

A Night in Malaysia

After departing Denpasar International, and spending an unfortunately uneventful day in Java, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 3:30pm. Starving, and malnourished from the lack of fresh vegetarian options while traveling, our food prayers were answered in BMS Organics. BMS (standing for Body, Mind, & Soul) offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options for my heIMG_9776alth conscious traveling friends and it has my highest recommendation. I ordered a vegan burger on a charcoal bun and it did not disappoint. Sam ordered the sweet and sour tofu with rice, which was equally as enjoyable. The whole meal was under USD$12, including two drinks, which is a steal compared to American organic restaurants.

Their airport was much larger and more technological than Denpasar, and we had multiple options into the heart of the city. We took the bus into town, which cost USD 4 for both of our tickets. However, the “fastest way into Kuala Lumpur” is by train and cost USD 14 per person.

Once at KL Sentral, we found the local transportation system easy to navigate. Additionally, there were lockers large enough to store our bags. We packed light, but not having to carry our bags around was definitely a relief and allowed us more focus to enjoy what we were doing. USD$3 well spent.

We had scheduled a night bus from TBS to Hat Yai, Thailand, as our final destination is Phuket. The bus didn’t depart until 11:30pm, so we had some time to kill. We decided to visit the Petronas Twin Towers, boasting the tallest sky bridge in the world. It was four stops away at KLCC on Route 5. From KLCC station, it couldn’t have been more than a five minute walk to the towers. Coming from Indonesia, it felt like I had been transported to a different world. Kuala Lumpur is definitely every bit of the city feel you would expect. I stood outside of the H&M Home Store (yes, they have one of those) and tried to orient myself with my GPS. It said I was right next to the towers, but in front of me I only saw one massive building…because it’s twin was hiding behind it.

I entered through the mall, where names like Armani, Coach, and Gucci lined the shiny marble walls. Hmmmm…wasn’t I just in the land of $2 t-shirts?! I made my way to the Petronas Towers and by this time it was roughly 7:00pm. I was disappointed to hear the tours had been sold out for the entire evening, but this allows me to pass a lesson onto you, my readers: BUY TICKETS ONLINE IN ADVANCE. Being as impromptu as it was, my disappointment turned into appreciation that I was able to experience this at all. The base of the towers offers a lot of information on the building process and you can still enter the gift shop.

Hungry yet again, we had dinner at Limoncello’s just outside the mall, overlooking a multicolored water show. Malaysia was a food PARADISE. I had a caesar salad and minestrone soup, which would seem very average, but for an Italian girl who had been eating lots of curry and rice in Indonesia, it was a godsend. Thus far, my favorite meal in Asia.

FullSizeRender 6We walked around the fountain show before heading back to the station at around 8:45pm. The train that would take us to the bus stop didn’t show up until 9:40pm, and it was recommended we be at the bus stop a half hour early. Once on the train, we accidentally got off one stop shy of where we should have, where we had to wait another 20 minutes for the next train. 10:30pm and finally we showed up at TBS…where we found that our tickets from busonlineticket.co.th had never been emailed to us. We ended up repurchasing tickets through the booking agent at the terminal, deciding to deal with our online fiasco the following day. It has yet to be resolved, but I will update this blog post when it has.

At 11:45pm, we were on our way to Hat Yai.

Tanah Lot & Bye Bye Bali

We rented our motorbike for another day and decided to drive out to Tanah Lot, another temple roughly an hour from where we were staying. We left a little after 8am, hoping to beat the midday crowds. I should have done some research before we went, as I was disappointed to find out that we couldn’t actually go inside or even get to the island it was built on. The entrance fee was a little over USD 2 for foreigners, but it’s even cheaper for locals. There is a parking area about a half mile from the temple itself and the streets leading up to it are lined with vendors. Once you get to the viewing area, there are more vendors and restaurants to the left. It was beautiful. The weather was perfect and a handful of surfers had gathered to take advantage of the tide.

Personally, it was underwhelming, probably due to the incredible experience I’d just had the day prior and my unrealistic expectations. The vendors are just like the ones you see all over town, and there’s only so long you can be entertained by viewing a temple on an island, especially after seeing pictures online. We got some lunch and had a great time, but after driving for an hour, we weren’t there for as long as I had imagined.

Our time on Bali was incredible. Despite being known as more of a honeymoon resort style travel destination, there were lots of fellow backpack style travelers as well, mostly from Australia and New Zealand. Lodging and dining is inexpensive, and although transport throughout the country can be a little tricky to arrange at times, it can still be cheap. You can truly travel anywhere on a budget. Just remember that there is always a better price (so haggle), and always take metered taxis (no exceptions). Next stop Malaysia!

Bali Greenschool & The Sacred Water Temple

We rented a motorbike from our friend at the Purnama House and rode out to the Greenschool to make it to our 9am tour. We arrived at 8:30 and found the tour was already sold out, and I had not been able to make reservations online. Luckily, some of the other reservations didn’t show, and we were able to take their place. The tour was a little overpriced compared to the rest of Ubud, but we were later informed that proceeds made from tours are used to help Balinese students pay for tuition.

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Nestled about 16km outside of Ubud, the Greenschool boasts incredible ecological and architectural novelties. The renown PreK – 12 world school is known for it’s sustainability focused curriculum and bamboo marvels.

The tour started promptly at 9, and lasted about 2 hours. We were lucky enough to visit during summer break which allowed us to wander into all of the classrooms. Multistory classrooms, dorms, bridges, and all other buildings on the campus are constructed from bamboo. The tour was diverse, gearing equally towards parents of potential students and architecture buffs alike. Definitely try to book ahead, but if you are unable to, try going anyway! You might luck out…and if nothing else, you’ll get quite the scenic drive. You have to cross a wide stream from hundreds of feet above on a wooden bridge. Secondly, brings some bug spray. I recommend it for everywhere in Asia, but I got eaten alive at The Greenschool…

After returning to our hotel following the tour, we had a large portion of the day left over. We grabbed some lunch and then headed out to Tirta Empul, a Hindu temple famous for it’s holy spring water. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, but I was in for a surprise.

Although crowded with visitors, the temple felt calm and neutral against all the energies of the people inside. At Tirta Empul, tourists are allowed to plunge into the the fountain where the supposed holy water flows (only after purchasing your own sarong of course). At first I chalked it up to a money making gimmick, but decided I couldn’t leave without at least having tried it for myself.

I pulled my hair back and wrapped my red and gold sarong around my hips before sliding into the waist deep water. The water was lukewarm, but still felt refreshing against the hot humid air around me. Large koi fish swam between my legs as I made my way over to the fountains. I held my hands together in prayer against my chest and held my breath as I bowed under the flowing water. The water poured over my hair for seconds before reaching my scalp…but when it did, I could no longer hold my breath. Uncontrollably, all the air from my lungs felt like it was being sucked away and my body was powerless to replace it. I could not breathe but I also didn’t feel like I needed to. The feeling remained, it pulled at my throat and chest long after my lungs had emptied.

It all happened within a matter of seemingly endless seconds, as I stepped away from the fountain I took a breath. I could never put into words what it felt like. I was not gasping. I was not out of breath. But the air in my lungs fulfilled me and renewed me in ways I have never experienced. Not sure I could ever explain the experience to it’s full content, I persuaded Sam to go in while I dried off. Low and behold, he had the same experience.

Maybe the lukewarm water felt shockingly cold, or maybe Tirta Empul’s supposed healing powers worked their wonders on us. Either way, it was a magical way to spend the afternoon.