What's New

Posted by & filed under General Training, Running. 1 comment.

During my run this morning, I thought about my new training block for my spring marathon. In designing it, I subconsciously set several promises to myself. Last year’s attempt at a BQ went south and days after I was diagnosed with a femoral neck stress fracture (my 2nd stress fracture in my right hip). After finding out my bone density was fine, I knew the problem was 100% with me and my training. I made multiple small, stupid decisions that added up to a major consequence. I knew better. I coach others better. Why couldn’t I hold myself to the same standards as I do with my athletes?

So back to those promises. Now that I’m fresh at the beginning of my plan, I’m making it official and putting my promises in writing. These promises are things that I know I should be doing to toe the line injury-free. Promises that will keep me mentally and physically healthy as I juggle the increased running mileage. So, without further delay, I present to you….


My Marathon Training Promises

1. I promise to run every long run :30-:90 slower than my goal race pace (since historically I hit every long run at too fast a pace, hence the injuries).

2. I promise to run every “filler” run :30-:60 slower than my goal race pace (see above).

3. I promise to do yoga for runners twice a week (because I absolutely hate/suck at stretching).

4. I promise to do functional strength training twice a week (to help with muscle imbalances).

5. I promise to swim and bike at least once a week (my body will thank me come triathlon season. Plus, you know, cross training).

6. I promise to find some sort of “play” in each and every run (because it’s supposed to be fun!).

7. I promise to stretch and foam roll after every long run (prior to shoving food in my face and crashing on the couch).

8. I promise to take in one dose of iron supplement for every 10 miles I log in a week (since my ferritin levels tank when my running miles increase).

9. I promise to stay on top of my nutrition and grocery shop for produce regularly (Powerbar doth not a lunch make).

10. I promise to have one delicious, indulgent “cheat” meal each week.


So there you have it, my official marathon training promises! Regardless of your running distance, what are your training promises?

Posted by & filed under Race Reports. 2 comments

IMG_8026Aww man, this is a frustrating one to write. This race will go down as my first DNF. I’m disappointed, but also proud that I made the smart decision. This weekend was supposed to be a mix of athleticism and fun, and by avoiding hospitalization I made sure I didn’t eliminate the “fun” part.

To catch you up, this summer was full of inconsistent training. I did a few solid weeks in prep for Quassy Olympic, but then moved to Indiana and was very busy with fixing up my house and prepping for my new job. I did another Oly in July (and did pretty well and finished 1st in my AG), but then focused solely on trying to stay afloat in my new tenure track position. In August I had my “crap I’m doing a half soon” moment, and did the bare minimum to prep for Challenge Cedar Point Half, which reflected in my finish time. I then intended to put in a solid 6 week training block to smash Florida, but got sick at week 4 and then had two weeks of conferences. Regardless, I went into this race feeling relatively fit and confident that I could go sub-5:15.

I was fortunate because I had a conference a few hours north of the race that ended the Friday before race weekend. My awesome teammate Brittany (@gahornet) picked me up and we road tripped down to Sarasota to pick up my honey. Then we headed to our team house. A group of us rented out a house with the intention of making this our end of the year party. We wasted no time jumping on the party:


Leading up to the race was full of laughter, hugs, alcohol, and food. It was so great hanging out with my triathlon family, and a fantastic break from the craziness of the semester.



The morning of the race I woke very anxious about the day. The forecast was high temps (high 80′s-low 90′s), with full sun. Normally, this would be fine, as I typically train in the heat, but since this summer was essentially an offseason and all my training prep for this was was in 40-60 degree temps, I was worried about my outcome.

We woke around 5, shoved some food in our face (I had eggs and oatmeal), then headed to the race site. I snapped one quick selfie with the honey before we headed down to the swim start:


Swim: (36:XX): The water temp was a tepid 81 degrees, which meant no wetsuit. I had some considerably more swim training than Cedar Point, but magnitudes less than I have for “good” seasons, so I wasn’t expecting anything stellar here. My goal was to find feet and find my “uncomfortably comfortable” pace. Unfortunately, I got stuck in a pack of very slow women at the start and ended up doggy paddling until I could get around them. By the time I found open water, my chase pack was gone. I swam the entire portion solo, but absolutely loved it. It has been a long, long time since I swam in the ocean and I loved surfing the swells and watching the plankton below. I came out of the water feeling happy and strong and ready to hit the bike.

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Bike: (2:37:XX): Considering how much power I lost over the past year, I was pretty proud of my bike. I had done a few solid weeks of bike training, including some hard long rides, so I felt ready to tackle the 56 miles. I also knew that flats are my strength, so I was ready to shine. I tucked into aero and maintained my goal watts (to show you how much power I lost, my goal for the 56 mi was the same as my goal for the 112 at Cedar Point in 2013). I kept my watts steady, and kept passing woman after woman. Unfortunately, it was hot as balls. I tried my damnedest to take in fluids, but when I attempted a pee on a hill around mile 40, I found my bladder empty. This was the first time I realized I would be in trouble. Keeping my power consistent, I passed even more women and men in the last 10 miles. I pulled into transition and saw only one bike in the female area. I knew that even if I had a bad run I still had a chance at an OA or AG award.

Run (DNF): As soon as I started the run, I knew I was in trouble. My body felt fine, but my heart rate was absolutely sky high, and unsustainable for the run. I told myself to back off the pace significantly and give it a mile, then check in. At mile 1 I checked, and my heart rate was still in the 5k range. I slowed down even more. No reduction in heart rate. I had never experienced this before, so my brain kicked in to scientist mode: what can I systematically do to lower my heart rate? I walked for 60 seconds, which lowered it to tempo run mode, but as soon as I started running again at my goal pace +60 seconds, it jumped back up. I tried ice down the bra. I tried ice down my pants. I saw a male pro jump into a beach shower and followed. Nothing seemed to work. At mile 2, my right psoas completely seized up, which again, was something new to me. I power walked as I tried to release my psoas, and then the intense nausea set in. I was a mess of a power walking/limping woman. I kept telling myself to fight it. I was able to release my psoas the point of functioning (albeit with pain), so I tried a slow jog again. BING went the heart rate, and up came the vomit in the throat. At the 5k turnaround, I realized I was absolutely done. I could push to the finish, but I would be miserable and ruin the rest of the day. At mile 4 I saw my teammate Stacey, who was in a similar position. We both decided to run/walk the rest of the way back, then turned in our chips at the 10k mark.

As soon as I finished, the nausea intensified and a sharp pain in my head came out of nowhere. I knew a migraine was coming, and I needed to tackle it immediately. I headed to the ice baths where I ran into my honey who had finished the Olympic. He gave me water, but I took one sip and my body said “NOPE!” I sat in the med tent for 30 minutes willing myself not to vomit and get up the strength to take in fluids. My man was super sympathetic:


Meanwhile Brittany was trying to convince me to get an IV. I resisted because I think IVs are for sissies. After trying unsuccessfully to take in fluids, and feeling worse by the minute, I finally gave in, The medic took my heart rate and blood pressure and said “yep, you need an IV.” I honestly had no idea how dehydrated I truly was: It took an IV bag plus 96 oz of oral fluids before I finally peed (4 hours later). If I had not pulled out of the race, I would have gotten even more dehydrated, and may very well have been hospitalized. This would not have been a fun way to spend the remainder of my weekend.

By the time the evening rolled around, I felt substantially better, which meant I was able to hang out with my awesome teammates and do things like pile in our ridiculously large shower:

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Because folks, this is what triathlon is about: it’s about laughter, families and love. PRs and podiums are just icing on the cake. Some days you get that frosting; other days you simply savor your unfrosted slice.

Posted by & filed under Race Reports. 4 comments

Going into this race, I had mixed emotions. I was happy because I finally got to see my awesome teammates after not seeing many of them for a year. I was apprehensive because I hadn’t done much training at all, and certainly no “serious” training, all season. I was nostalgic because this was the venue, in 2013, when I won the full. But most of all, I was so excited for coasters!

I woke up early the day before the race and hit the road. I had about a 3 hour drive ahead of me and wanted to make it in time for the practice swim. Shortly after I hit the road, I got a text from a teammate that the sprint race and practice swim were cancelled due to bad weather, and that half the expo kept blowing away. I knew I was in for an interesting weekend.

I arrived just before lunch, and had a quick beer and greet with some of the team:

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After we hydrated, we grabbed some lunch and then headed back to the park. My goal was to hit all 13 coasters. Unfortunately the weather kicked up, so we only got to about half of them before they started shutting the rides down. We grabbed dinner and then more beers and stayed up way past a good little triathlete’s pre-race bedtime.

The morning of the race I woke up exhausted, but excited for the race. Since I hadn’t been training, I wanted to use this race as a “baseline” measure. I had my pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with banana and whey protein washed down with coffee, got suited up, and headed to the race. We arrived just as the full crew was starting their swim, and learned that due to high winds the swim would be moved to the bay. I got everything set up in transition and headed to the swim start. Since the swim start was moved last minute, and there were no porto-potties, I did my very first pee-in-your-wetsuit-on-dry-land maneuver. Unfortunately, since we were in a giant parking lot everyone could see my transgressions. My next race goal is to attempt this while maintaining eye contact with someone else. It’s nice to set mini-race goals.


Staying warm with the team pre-race!


Before I knew it, it was time for our time trial start swim to begin!

The swim:

Due to rough winds, they had to alter the swim course even more, making it an out-and-back along the marina where it was more sheltered. I decided to enter just a few individuals in and expected to get passed (since I swam probably 10 times since January 1), but surprisingly held my own and even passed a few individuals. The pack was so spaced out that I couldn’t find any feet to draft on, so I just focused on keeping my head down and my stroke smooth and powerful. I lifted my head to yell “thank you for volunteering” to each kayak escort I saw, as I knew they were struggling in the winds as well. I just focused on keeping the swim uncomfortably comfortable and powering through the water. When I got out of the water, I was pretty shocked at my time. Apparently I can hardly swim at all and still have a decent swim time!

31:23 (1.14 miles)


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Where do I go?

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The Bike:

I got on the bike and immediately settled in for what is typically my strength. Once my heart rate settled down I chomped on some Powerbar Energy Blasts in Cola flavor (my absolute favorite for race day because of the taste and the caffeine) and settled into aero. I was maintaining good power and passing several people. About 10 miles in I found a girl with a mechanical and stopped to try to help her for a minute or two, but quickly realized I couldn’t do anything to help her and she needed the support car. I continued on, maintaining steady watts, and taking in 4 Powerbar Energy Blasts every 20-30 minutes. I knew I was in a decent position (at mile 22 I was 1st in my division) and was cruising along in a great mental and physical place.

Suddenly I felt something off and looked down. My rear tire was slowly going flat. My thought? “Yay! My first race flat! At least it’s at a race that isn’t an A race for me!” I pulled over and began the process of changing my flat. Once I removed the tube, however, I realized I had a problem. My valve extender had frozen to the presta valve. (I have race wheels, so need a valve extender due to the depth of the dish). I tried everything, including my teeth, to try to get it off. Nothing (Note to self: if you’ve had a valve extender on a tube for 3+ years, you should probably check it before a race). Meanwhile the ladies began passing me. I tried to not get flustered and stay calm, but I was so irritated at myself that I didn’t think to check that before the race. I asked one participant to ask for help at the next aid station, but the time ticked by. My teammate Carmen eventually stopped. I told her to go on without me, but she insisted she help. We tried and tried but nothing. Finally I had a thought: I inflated my old tube and couldn’t find an obvious puncture. Perhaps the valve had wiggled loose, which was caused the tire to go flat in the first place?

I put the old tube back in and re-inflated everything, but heard a slight hissing sound. Carmen suggested I take her CO2 and just keep inflating the tire as needed to hopefully get me back to T2. Considering we still saw no bike support, I knew that was my best strategy. By the time I hit the road again and looked at my time, I had lost just over 20 minutes due a mechanical that was 100% my fault.

Due to that incident, the rest of the race was a wash. My mental state was grumpy as I battled the winds all the way back to T2 and tried to compensate for my mechanical time by pushing too high of watts. By the time I came back into T2 I had slipped from 5th female overall to 19th.

Bike: 3:08:51 (GAH! A personal worst!)

I then wasted way too much time in T2 bitching to my teammates about losing 20 mins on the side of the road:

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Grabbing some Powerbar gels for the run!

Somehow, despite feeling like I stayed in T2 FOREVER, I moved up 1 place in my division and 4 places overall.


The run:

Know what’s funny? When you don’t train, running HURTS. And OH MAN did the run hurt. The first few miles were fine, as they always are, but around mile 5 I was SO OVER THIS RACE. That was right about the time that Ed came up to me on the bike and told me that I was 2nd in my division and I better not mentally quit. Honestly I was surprised that I had a shot at the podium, so I was sort of happy, but I was also pissed because now that meant I had to at least TRY. And I told him that. Loudly. In front of an aid station. The volunteers got a good laugh out of that.

The rest of the run was very mechanical: I just kept my eye on my heart rate and wouldn’t let it get too high or too low as I ticked off the miles. Every 4 miles I would have a Powerbar Energy Gel (the Double Latte is my flavor of choice, again for the caffeine). Periodically Ed came up on his bike to check on me to make sure I wasn’t slacking:

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Don’t let the smile fool you. I was hurting. And don’t let the stride fool you. I swear I was actually running.

The only thing that kept me going (other than a promise from Ed I would get a post-race massage if I kept my position) was knowing that many of my new South Bend friends knew I was traveling to a race and how embarrassing it would be to explain to them that I had a horrible race because I just gave up. That pissed me off and I ran the rest of the race in anger.

Run: 1:53:34

Total: 5:41:51 (My second worst time ever for the half distance)

Finally, FINALLY, I crossed the finish. I then went straight to the med tent because during my bike mishap I essentially tore off half my fingernail and it was dangling bloodily from my hand. So yep, I got to go to the med tent because I broke a nail!

After the race I quickly grabbed some food, my award, and then a hamstring annihilation from my teammate Carmen (Ed didn’t deliver, and I’m going to hold that over his head for awhile) before I had to get back in my car to drive home. When I got home I was a little hurt–butthurt from a mechanical that was my fault, but also legitimately sore from the unconditioned shape I went into the race in.

I pulled into town, picked up Kaipo from his girlfriend’s house, then finally got to enjoy my post-race beer:

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Note the band-aid. RIP, fingernail.

And then? I promptly ordered a new valve extender off Amazon and wrote up a structured training plan. Next up? Challenge Florida Half (that my sweetie will travel to also)!

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I can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 months since I last blogged. I honestly didn’t plan for this to happen, but life sort of got in the way. Where we last left off, I was saying goodbye to Providence and packing up for the big move to South Bend. After a whirlwind few days of packing, everything was loaded up and it was time to hit the road with the 2 most important men in my life for the drive west to my new home in South Bend, IN.

The trip out there was thankfully pretty uneventful. My sweetie drove, and Kaipo kept a lookout the whole time


To pass the time, I experimented with new “professional” hairstyles


Soon we were in my new home state of Indiana!



We met the realtor for the final walk-through, and Kaipo immediately christened his new backyard


After signing 24,000 papers at the title company, the house was finally mine and I was a first time homeowner! We got some bubbly to celebrate, and then wondered if it was a bad sign we couldn’t get the cork out


Then, the frantic work began. I had my sweetie for 3 days before he had to fly home I wanted to use him as much as possible get as much quality time with him while working on the house. My house has a weird rough texture on all the walls, so I had pre-arranged for some wall guys to come in and skim coat the entire downstairs. They got to work the day I got the keys to my home.

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Meanwhile, my honey and I tackled the upstairs. We filled the 262 (he counted) holes in the walls, then painted the ceiling, walls, and all the trim. This was also my home for 2 weeks while the downstairs was being re-done and I was waiting for my furniture to arrive.


We also did a bunch of other smaller projects that I can’t recall now but do recall them feeling like a massive time suck. Eventually it was time for me to send my honey home and then it was time for me to:


While the painters (led by an awesome man that is now my go-to for all house projects) tackled the tedious inside,


I went to work outside. The backyard had been neglected for years so I tore out and chopped down and filled more yard bags than I could count:


After about a week, the moving crates arrived and it was time to get them unpacked! My boxspring wouldn’t fit up the stairs to go to the guest room:

photo18So we made a gametime decision and sawed it in half (later connecting it with some scrap wood I had around)


Once my furniture arrived it started to feel like a home. But there was one thing missing: my dream of built-ins. So I rented a truck and made a long trip out to Ikea to buy lots and lots of Billy bookshelves:

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The next morning reinforcement arrived in the form of my super awesome brother and his engineer friend. The two of them drove 24 hours round trip solely to help me out. That’s love, folks. My bro also brought his new rescue dog, and Kaipo immediately took to his new cousin:


While the dogs were playing the boys got to work:

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I wanted to help, but was told that I would help best by staying out of the way. So instead, I kept them well-fed:



And by the end of the weekend I was blessed with gorgeous “built-ins,” both in my living room and the office:



They also constructed a dining table and bench, and after I spent several days sanding, painting, staining and sealing, I finally had the farmhouse table of my dreams:

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After they left I was truly alone to screw up all the projects, so I got to work. First step was the kitchen. I decided to scrape up the old floors and replace it with groutable, heavy duty peel and stick tile, strip, sand, and repaint the kitchen cabinets, re-paint my ugly pink laminate countertops, and replace my appliances. I did all of this 100% solo and it nearly killed me (my finger joints are still locking from scraping up the horrible floor glue for a week straight):

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But in the end I was rewarded with a gorgeous kitchen that makes me smile each time I look at it

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After I successfully fixed my kitchen, I got a bit ambitious and ripped out my old and overgrown juniper bushes in the front of the house (no pictures were taken but just picture me with a chainsaw, shovel, and lots of cursing). Then, unhappy with the estimates, I decided to build a fence myself:

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There were many more other projects I completed such as swapping light fixtures, replacing the bathroom vanity and toilet, building a tufted headboard, etc. Altogether it was 4 solid weeks of work I put into the house, nearly 12 hours a day. The only help I got was hiring the people to skim coat and paint the inside walls and paint the exterior of my home, my bro and his friend with the built-ins and table, and my sweetie who came back a few weekends later to swap the toilet and vanity and replace my front door. Everything else in my home was done 100% by myself with a lot of sweat, blood, cursing, and beer. In the end I have a home that I am damn proud of, that greets me warmly when I come home, and that makes me feel like an adult.

And now…the before and afters! (Before were from the listing pictures, taken with a fisheye lens)



Before_After_Living Before_After_Kitchen Before_After_Bedroom



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I’m sitting on the floor of my bare apartment, surrounded by cleaning supplies and suitcases. In the midst of all this chaos, I found myself pulled back towards my blog. For what, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s because with all the craziness that my life has brought me over the years, the one thing that’s been my old standby is my blog. I started writing this my first year of graduate school, back in 2007, and many of you have been following my journey along the way from day 1. I felt with this big life change ahead, I needed to document and honor it somehow. Which is why I’m here, typing away to you.

The past month has been yet another crazy time. After returning from my Africa trip I had 2 1/2 weeks before I headed off for my field work in the middle of the desert. I completed Challenge Quassy Olympic with my man, and we had an absolute blast despite being undertrained. After Quassy I headed off with a student and a colleague for my field work in the desert. I managed to get some runs in (with a security escort behind due to the buffalo) and tried to maintain some semblance of athleticism:



After I returned I had exactly 2 days before my packers came. I used that time to slowly get things in order for my big move. Kaipo was not having any of this packing business:



On Friday, the moving pods arrived, and then things got real:



Since my man sold his house, and his buyers chose a closing date of the exact date I move out of my apartment, we both were unavailable to help each other move. Thankfully, my new employer pays moving expenses, so I hired some packers to help me box up my belongings and load the pods. They told me the best way I could help was to stay out of their way. It was a hard job, but I did my best:



After many many self-moves and dealing with the stresses of packing, I thoroughly enjoyed spending my “packing” day on the porch with cider and my best friend, Holly. And before I knew it, the pods were all loaded! It was hard to imagine I moved here from Hawaii with a few suitcases and boxes and accumulated all this “grown up” stuff over the past three years:





Once the pods were all loaded, all I had left were my “essential” boxes for the car and Kaipo. We headed over to Hotel Holly for a fun girls night of pizza and bad reality TV. And that takes us to now. I’m cleaning up my apartment before I officially turn over the keys and move out. I’ll spend one day up with my man before we hit the road on Tuesday.



My man is driving out with me and helping me get settled for the first few days before he flies back to the East Coast so he can maintain his grownup job. I’m moving into my very first house (hello, homeowner!) and am excited and terrified all at the same time. I don’t start work until late August, so I have time to get settled in my new home of South Bend, Indiana, and work on my home before the semester begins.

Although the move is stressful, and leaving loved ones behind absolutely kills me, I am excited for this next chapter in my life. I’m also unbelievably excited to stop all my crazy travel and establish a routine again. Also, grocery shopping. Having a fridge full of more than just almond milk and cold pizza will certainly help contribute to this “grown up” feeling.

So with that, I’ll say GOODBYE NEW ENGLAND! It’s been a blast partying with you these past three years. I’ll miss your hills. I’ll miss your weird accents. I’ll even miss your asshole drivers. But it’s time for this girl to move on up—to the Midwestern side!


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My semester of travel is coming to an end! All that stands between me and normalcy is a 2-week trip to my field site in the middle of the New Mexico desert. And a move halfway across the country. And starting a new job. But after this semester, all this is totally doable.

Just to recap my fitness and travel history, I spent my fall training for what was to hopefully be my BQ marathon. All my 22 mile runs indicated I would break 3:30, and I felt mentally and physically strong. About 3 weeks before the race, I started getting weird pain in what I thought was my psoas. My race fell apart and I ended in agony and completely missed my BQ time. I went to get an MRI and my fears were confirmed–stress fracture in my femoral neck. I then spent 6 weeks on crutches and a frustrating walk/run recovery. That took me to February, when I traveled for 3 weeks to Brazil. Then I was home for a week or so before trip after trip for work, buying a home, family obligations, etc. That took me to April, when I traveled for a month in Uganda followed by a week-long conference in the states.

See what’s missing from all that travel? Training. I feel completely weak and out of shape. Next weekend I’ll be doing the Challenge Quassy Olympic, which will be horribly painful and humbling yet hopefully fun. After that I jump to my field work and then pack up and move to my new home of South Bend, Indiana!  I am so excited to settle into my new home (I also bought my first house!), get back into a regular routine, and get back on the training wagon. I miss feeling strong. I miss structuring my day around training. I miss weird tan lines, chafing, muscle soreness, salt crusting, and endless loads of laundry. Right now I feel completely disconnected from the triathlon community, and I want to gain my entry back into the clubhouse.


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March 1, Day 38

After a leisurely morning we decided to hit the beach. We loaded up the moped and stopped for durian, jackfruit, oranges and pineapple along the way and headed to Jess’s favorite beach. We also stopped by a travel agency to book a tour for the Simian Islands the following day.

The water at the beach was turquoise, calm and warm–as perfect as can be! We completely lazed about, spending several hours soaking up the sun and sand and water and discussing life, love and the pursuit of travel.

Around mid-afternoon we then headed a few more kms to check out another beach, stopping for mangoes along the way. After we got our fill of the beach we hit up a nearby market where I stuffed myself silly: sausage, fried tofu, papaya salad, pad thai, squash in sweet coconut milk, and fried bananas. Once we were about to burst we got back on the moped for our long trip home–the traffic in Phuket was horrendous, even with our motorbike. We hit the hay early as we were set to wake up very early the next morning for our Simian Islands adventure!


March 2, Day 39

We scrambled in the darkness to get ready as our pickup time was listed as 6am. We arrived at the 7-11 (our designated pickup place) just in time and waited and waited. 50 minutes later our minivan arrive (with other tourists in tow) and we then endured a hair-raising 90 minute drive with the craziest driver I experienced my whole trip.

Eventually we arrived at Andaman Sea Discovery and opened the minivan doors to see a sea of tourists, all being herded like cattle. After doing the “non-tourist” thing for most of my trip, this was a shock to my system. Jess and I each turned to each other with a look that screamed “holy hell, what have we gotten ourselves into?” Before we could speak, our look was broken by “Helllllooooo ladies! Welcome! What is your hotel name?” We turned to see a European man with a clipboard. We start to mutter “oh, um, no hotel, we were picked up at the 7-11…” and we were quickly interrupted by “oh yes! 7-11 girls! Jessica! Two lovely ladies! Welcome! You are on my boat today!” We laughed and knew we were in for an interesting day.

After a few minutes of hanging out with a huge group, we were split off according to boat and briefed about our destination. We were heading to the Simian Islands, a group of islands off the Western coast of Thailand which are now part of the National Park. There islands have amazing snorkeling and beaches, and we would spend the day island-hopping.

After our briefing we boarded the boat (we snagged a great seat on the bow) and we were off! The whole way out to the islands our European guide was talking with us and we were having a ball–we were laughing and making fun of each other and just really enjoying the day. Making friends with the guide paid off because when our boat stopped at our first snorkeling destination he snuck us off on a private tour! The reef was absolutely incredible: the reef was vibrant and healthy (it’s closed to tourists 6 months out of the year to allow the reef to recover and grow) and there was an incredible diversity of fish species. The time in the water flew by as I observed all the fish behavior and I reluctantly went back to the boat when we were called back.

From there we sailed a few minutes to the largest island where we had a disappointing (bland tourist food) buffet lunch and beach time. The beach and water were absolutely stunning: I don’t know hoe much more picture perfect you can get!

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After lunch we headed to another snorkeling site (again amazing) followed by another island and beach, where I finally saw flying foxes!


At 2:45 it was time to leave and we enjoyed a nice cruise back to port. We then got back on the same minivan with the same driver and the same harrowing ride home. After a quick dinner we had just enough time to shower before our bodies collapsed in exhaustion from a fun-filled day.

March 3, Day 40

Ah, my last day in Thailand! Jess had to go to work, so I set off to Phuket town to kill some time before my flight to Bangkok. Having my bike was handy as it let me get around town, but I was also eager to get rid of it. My first stop was at the main market, where I bought Thai ingredients (tamarind paste, green curry paste, toasted rice powder for making laab, black sticky rice, and chili flakes)–thus filling any last possible space I had in my pack.

After the market and a late breakfast of mango sticky rice I set off to tackle two things: exchange my Laos money and get rid of the bike. I had about $230 US in Lao Kip, but could not find any places in Cambodia that would exchange it. Apparently if I had read the Laos Lonely Planet I would have learned this. I heard of one exchange in Phuket that would exchange it, so I ventured off to find them. The problem was they couldn’t convert Kip directly to dollars–they had to convert it to Baht first–so in the end my $230 US was only worth about $70. I thought for a moment about just keeping the Kip and trying to find a place to exchange it in the US, but then I thought about the stress of dealing with that and the chance of ending up with nothing so I took the loss and told myself “what’s done is done and I’m not allowed to think about this anymore.”

After that I spent about 2 hours trying to find someone to buy my bicycle, but no one seemed interested. So I decided to follow through with my back-up plan: donate it to monks at a temple. I pulled up to a temple and was greeted by an older monk who spoke English. At first he was confused, but he eventually understood I was donating the bicycle. He was so happy with the donation and insisted on buying me an ice cream as a thank-you. I was happy to see it go to a good destination, and I was rewarded with thumbs-up from a group of monks as I left by foot. I walked away smiling. My nearly 6 weeks taking this bicycle from Laos to Cambodia to Thailand ended on such a great feeling.


With 2 hours left until my bus departed for the airport, I had one last item on my agenda: the Raintree Spa. I got something called the sport treatment: an intense hour long oil massage followed by a 30 minute Thai massage. It was peaceful and glorious and a great way to end my trip. From there I caught the local bus to the airport (100 Baht, 90 minutes) and boarded my Thai airlines flight to whisk me to Bangkok to begin my long journey home. I settled into my seat with a smile on my face. And as we taxied across the tarmac, my smile grew. For what was the last song played over the speaker system before we took off? Katy Perry’s Roar.


Read previous: Day 35-37: The floating houses on Cheow Lan Lake

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February 26, Day 35: Khao Sok

Again I was up early–today I was headed to my most anticipated destination yet–the Cheow Lan lake! Many tour companies offer packages where you sleep in a floating house, but I previously found (somewhat sketchy) directions on how to do it yourself and pre-booked my house online through the National Park website (note to those of you choosing this option: I booked 3 days before I arrived and chose the option to pay at the National Park headquarters within 48 hours in Khao Sok). I never paid since the people at Khao Sok had no idea how I should pay, but I asked them to call to verify that I did indeed have a reservation, and which specific lakehouse I was to stay at.

To get to the floating houses, you need to take a private longtail boat from the pier near Rajjaphapa Dam. The pier is about 65 km from the main entrance to Khao Sok, so you either need to own your own transport or hitchike. Since I had my bike it was a no-brainer. I left early and cycled through the early morning fog. The roads were flat and in good condition, so I going about 20-25 kph even at a conservative pace. 20 km away from Khao Sok I grabbed an amazing breakfast of stirfried chicken and rice from a roadside stand (which I ordered simply by walking up, saying “Swaidee-ka” (hello), followed by “Kin Kao?” and then getting whatever they serve you. It’s always cheap and delicious and blows the pants off anything you’ll get from a restaurant in tourist areas.


After breakfast I continued on my way, enjoying the roads and views. When I was about 30 km from my journey, however, something odd happened. A car pulled alongside me and matched my pace. I tried to ignore him but he honked his horn. I looked and he gave me the thumbs up sign. I smiled, thought he was being your typical friendly Thai, gave him the thumbs up, and focused back on the road. The man then persisted. Eventually cars came behind him so he drove ahead, but then pulled over and waited for me to catch up. Then he tried to flag me down but I ignored him and cycled past him. This pulling alongside/trying to flag me down continued several times. As long as I was on the main road I knew I’d be safe, but I knew a few kms ahead I would pull off onto another road and I wasn’t sure how populated the area would be. Since I was cycling alone and my gut told me something wasn’t right, I decided I would stop in a store. Well, wouldn’t you know–at the next intersection was a police station!

I pulled into the police station and tried to explain what happened and ask if I could just wait there for a few minutes, but they had no idea what I was saying and they all started taking pictures of me with their phone (I suppose they don’t get too many bike-short wearing, solo-traveling, western women in their office!). After a few minutes a woman came up who spoke English and helped explain my situation. They told me not to worry and everything would be fine. I was just happy to have a few minutes rest and hit the road after about 10 minutes feeling better.

My worries were unnecessary, however, because the road to the dam was quite busy–lots of traffic and shops along the way. I was just a few more kms down the road when a police car came up and waved me down. He asked if I was going to the damn and I said yes and then he said “okay, safety” and indicated for me to continue. I was confused but started pedaling. Then I realized what was happening–he was escorting me the whole way to the dam! I felt a bit silly with the police car slowly cruising behind me as I pedaled along, but it made me smile and it was such a testament to how nice and caring the officers are to tourists.

At the entrance to the dam my escort departed and I continued on. As soon as I crossed the park checkpoint I took my first right and continued 1-2 km following the signs all the way to the municipal pier (you’ll bypass two small boat launches, but the main pier has several large buildings and is pretty obvious). I had read that I could get a ticket to the floating house for about 800 Baht, but apparently that was only if a boat was already heading there. I had booked a stay at Krai Sorn, the farthest of the park’s rafthouses. I was told I could get a private boat for 3000 Baht, or try my luck at waiting to share with someone else. Since it was already early afternoon and this rafthouse was my main item for this trip, I decided to go ahead and get a private boat. When they found out I was staying 2 nights, however, they upped the price to 4500 (apparently for overnights you also pay for the driver to sleep at the rafthouse with you). I explained I didn’t have the money and asked what other options I had. They said they could take me for 2500 Baht, not stay the night, and I could try to get a ride back on another boat that would drop people off the day I was leaving. I knew it was a risky move since nothing was guaranteed, but so far things on my trip had worked out for me, so I decided to take the risk.

The ride over was take-your-breath-away gorgeous. The turquoise waters of the lake were punctuated with sheer limestone formations. It felt like something prehistoric and sacred. There was zero development along the lake (since it was in a National Park) and it was so beautifully raw and untouched by humans. The boat trip alone was well worth the cost: where else in the world and when else in my life would I again see such beauty? As we made our way across the lake I reflected on how fortunate I was to be on this trip and how appreciative I was of everyone who helped make this possible.

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After about 90 minutes, we finally pulled up to the rafthouse. It contained 16 small thatched bungalows (each barely big enough for 2 twin mattresses), arranged in 2 rows of 8 that were attached at right angles to each other, essentially forming a giant L. In the middle was the kitchen/dining area, where meals were served. All houses, walkways, etc were floating: primitive sticks and wooden slabs were lashed onto floating logs. The only thing on land? The toilet. The bungalows and porches all looked out to sweeping views of the lake. There were kayaks available for people to take wherever and whenever, and there was even a diving platform constructed of sticks. I’m pretty sure this place belongs in the dictionary next to the definition of paradise. It was everything I could have imagined, and more.

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As soon as the boat dropped me off I threw on my Rev3 shimmer suit and got in a quality swim. The lake was warm, calm and clear. I made giant rectangles around the area of the houses, enjoying the feeling of an open water swim. After about 45 minutes, I decided it was time to explore in the kayak. For about 2 hours I slowly meandered around the lake’s edge, savoring the fact that I was completely alone and surrounded only by the sounds of the jungle. I found evidence of areas where it appeared animals (elephants, likely) were coming to the lake’s edge, and made a mental note to check them at sunrise or sunset the following day.

After my peaceful paddle I headed back to the rafthouse where the caretaker offered me green mango with chili while I spent some time catching up in my journal and savoring the view. As the sun set it was time for dinner–I was ravenous and not sure how much food I would get so I ate a Powerbar–boy was that a mistake! They gave me enough food for 4 people: an entire fish, massaman curry, sort sort of chicken and root vegetable dish, a plate of tempura, a cauldron of rice, and a dinnerplate full of watermelon and pineapple. I ate the entire fish plus massman curry, half of the tempura, 1/4 of the rice, all of the fruit, and as you can expect I was full to the gills. After the feast I headed back to my porch to finish Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island, which I started reading in Koh Phayam, and was appropriately themed for my trip.


February 27, Day 36: Cheow Lan Lake

I woke to see the hint of dawn faintly illuminating the shore, and lingered on my mattress, watching the sky light up through my open window. I headed to the dining area and enjoyed a light breakfast of fried eggs, toast, and instant coffee. After enjoying a quiet and leisurely breakfast,  threw on my shimmer suit and gathered all my belongings for a kayak. In a plastic bag I threw in my running shoes, sunblock, a shirt and shorts, my water bottle and my cell phone. I then tied the bag to the life vest, ensuring that if I capsized my bag would float (after my Khao Sok iphone nightmare I wasn’t taking any chances). One of the caretakers of the guesthouse indicated there was a waterfall and pointed in a general direction. I knew my chances of finding it were slim, but I was eager to explore the coast and look for more wildlife. I set off at 7:30 and was rewarded with an incredible calm over the lake–everything was glass and I could see and hear wildlife at great distances.



For the next 3 1/2 hours I slowly paddled the convoluted coast, tucking into various inlets i found along the way. I never found the waterfall but I saw countless birds, dragonflies, and fish. But the highlight? I finally found Gibbons! I was slowly and quietly tracing the shore when I came around a bend and heard what sounded like rain. Seeing bits of tree seeds and flowers falling into the lake I looked up and spied about a dozen gibbons foraging in the tree. I lingered directly below them for about 15 minutes–they either were unaware of my presence or didn’t care–but it was simply amazing to sit and watch them without another person in sight for miles.

Just after 11 I returned back to the rafthouse and relaxed and read before lunch, which again was gigantic and delicious. After lunch I lazed in my bed with my new book, Gone Girl (every time I found wifi I would download 8 new books with my library app), and let the heat of the day pass. At 3 I headed out on a short trail that began right behind the restaurant and saw two different groups of Gibbons! It was just simply stunning to have so much nature close by.

When I retuned the other guests (a group of about 8 French parents and their children) had returned from their day and together we spent the quiet afternoon swimming and lounging. I had just finished a swim when I heard the motor of a boat and watched as two boats dumped another 16 people at our rafthouse. My heart sank as I realized they were all 20 somethings, very loud, and incredibly drunk. They arrived, making quite a scene, doing backflips into the water and yelling and disrupting a peaceful afternoon. The French family immediately took off in kayaks and then one of the loud group yelled out “hey everyone look! We’re scaring everyone away!” to which everyone laughed. I was disgusted at their behavior and their insensitivity to the other guests, and mourned the loss of my peaceful rafthouse experience.

Fortunately, it was soon dinner, which raised my spirits. The French family invited me to eat with them and their guide and the rest of the evening was a jovial mix of good food, beer, and a French/English hybrid conversation (I studied French for 7 years and have elementary conversational experience). When they asked me how I was leaving the lake and I told them I had no idea, they offered to let me ride back with them and their guide the following day (see– I told you things kept working out for me!). Of course I expressed gratitude and relaxed once I knew I had a way back the following day. I spent awhile talking to their guide, Pu, who works for a company called Andaman Discovery and had over 12 years experience as a tour guide. I vowed I would one day return to this lake and hire him as my guide. He even joked he would create a custom jungle triathlon for me!

Around 9pm the drunk group got tired and went to bed (thank goodness!) so I headed back to my bungalow eager to catch up on my reading. What an amazing day on an even more amazing lake–I certainly can’t wait to return here again.

February 28, Day 37: Cheow Lan Lake

Well it turned out the 20-somethings got rowdy again, and were up until 2am. My only comfort was seeing them all puking the following morning as I watched the sunrise. After another great breakfast I had a few hours to kill until I had to head out with the French family, so I headed off in the kayak, watched more gibbons, then grabbed one last open-water swim. Soon it was time to board the long-tail boat to head back. We left around 10:30 and got another tour of the lake and stopped at another rafthouse, Nang Prai, for lunch. Compared to my rafthouse (Krai Sorn), Nang Prai was really developed. It had a real bathroom (with mirrors!) and signs everywhere. Although it overlooked the breathtaking limestone cliffs, I was happy with where I stayed at would certainly stay at Krai Sorn the next time I return.

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After lunch it was time to say Adieu to my French travelers and I grabbed my bike from where I had locked it at the pier and cycled the 12 km to Ban Klaa to catch the local bus to Phuket. The ride was fun as I got locks of honks and Sawaidee-Kas along the way. When I got to Bon Klaa I had trouble figuring out where to go since I couldn’t find a bus station. Several vendors (the street was lined with delicious street food) explained to me that there was no bus stop; I simply had to flag down the bus when it came by. They even had me practice waving it down, and we all got a good laugh. While I was waiting for the bus I tried to sell my bike, but people got confused and thought I was trying to ask for money. Eventually the bus came and I decided my bus would come with me to Phuket.

Several hours later I arrived in Phuket and was greeted by my friend Jess (whom I met through the wonders of the blogosphere!). She had come to pick me up but we had a problem: she had a moped, I had a bike, it was dark, and we had a lot of distance to cover. I started to follow her on my bike but since my chain kept dropping we were moving very slowly and knew it would take forever. So we decided to do things the SE Asia way: I sat on the back of the moped, holding the bike upside-down on my lap. With the bike perpendicular to the moped we weaved in and out of traffic and got lots of funny looks along the way. 20 minutes later we arrived at Jess’s house and wearily nodded off.



Read previous: Day 33-34: Khao Sok and the iPhone near-disaster

Read next: Day 38-40: Phuket and the end of my adventure

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February 24, Day 33: Koh Phayam

Sadly it was time for me to leave Koh Phayam–I woke, showered, ate a papaya, and headed to the pier. I bought my ticket for the slowboat and boarded with my bicycle. Two hours later I arrived in Ranong and cycled the 5k or so to the bus station, just in time to catch the bus to Takua Pa. The bus was supposed to be 3h but after 90 mins we stopped and were told to get off–our bus had broken down.


We had no idea how long it would be until the next bus came, so I went 100m up the road to try my hand at hitchiking. Although plenty of people stopped (Thais are so nice!), no one was headed in my direction. An hour after we broke down another bus came to pick us up. Initially the bus driver tried to tell me there was no room for my bike, but I used my lack of Thai as a tool and squeezed my bike into the cargo area. The bus was full so I had to sit on the floor, but I was happy to be making forward movement.


Eventually we pulled into Takua Pa with minutes to spare before my local bus to Khao Sok departed. I threw my bike in the cargo, grabbed a seat, and settled in for the short ride to the park. The bus dropped us off 2 km from the main park entrance, and there were a group of guesthouse touts trying to secure our business. I headed off on my bicycle determined to find a good deal, but quickly realized I faced a similar situation as in Koh Phayam: everything was full.


Trying to keep my spirits up, I ventured off the main road to explore my prospects. I eventually found a bungalow for 500 Baht–more than what I was hoping to pay, but the cheap tent I had the previous nights made up for it. I headed to the park to grab a map to plan my next day of trekking, then grabbed some wifi to FaceTime MamaFL before I headed to dinner. I had a rather disappointing meal (the problem with touristy areas is that the food is overpriced and not that good) and headed to bed early, eager to see the forest the following day.



February 25, Day 34: Khao Sok

My alarm went off just before sunrise and I scrambled to get ready. I knew sunrise is one of the most active times for wildife and I wanted to get into the park early. Since the park opened at 6, it was possible to get in early.

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I paid my 200 Baht entry fee and signed in the guest book (you have to sign in and out of the park which is reassuring–made me feel like if I got lost they’d send a search party). I decided to begin with the section they claim is an “all day hike”–from the visitor venter to Ton Kloi waterfall (14 km round trip) but I also would stop at all the mini-hikes along the way that branched out, including the Than Sawan Waterfall. Altogether it would be about 18 km round trip.

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The first 4 km or so were on easy trails: wide, well-groomed, and with little elevation/technical sections. Within the first 1 km I saw some macaques foraging in the trees and getting into some fights. I continued on, stopping at the not-so-impressive Wing Hin waterfall and Bang Hua Rat waterfall, which were pretty but not what I would classify as a “waterfall.” I then made my way towards the Than Sawan waterfall.

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The park map cautions people about this hike, saying the trail is “difficult and requires wading along the stream bed for the last kilometer.” The trail begins with a stream crossing; I was able to make my way across via rockhopping so I avoided wet feet. Immediately after crossing there is a sketchy 20 ft along a steep rock ledge, but a rope was there to help guide. From there you trace a tributary 1km upstream. Since I went in the dry season it was mainly rockhopping followed by some create-your-own trail in sections where rockhopping wasn’t possible. I imagine this hike would be extremely difficult (and wet) in the rainy season. This was one part of the entire park’s trail system that wasn’t marked since all you were doing was following the stream. About 1km after the initial stream crossing you get to the waterfall. Even in the dry season it was a true waterfall, perhaps 10-15 m tall, and absolutely gorgeous. It was definitely worth the visit!


From there I made my way back to the main trail. I still had yet to see anyone else in the park– it certainly paid to get there early! The trails were so ridiculously well marked that it made navigating the park effortless: it kind of blows my mind that people would hire tour guides up here. Yes, I know tour guides know where all the wildlife are and you typically see more wildlife with a guide, but I would rather see nothing and experience nature in quiet and at my own pace than be herded in a loud, slow group and looking at wildlife through a binocular lens.

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About 4 1/2 hours after starting my hike (I was moving slowly and stopping a lot to enjoy nature) I ended at the Ton Kloi waterfall. The last 2 km of the hike were the most difficult and technical of all the trails, but worth it. The waterfall itself was not particularly impressive, but it had a great pool at the base which was perfect for swimming. After cooling off with a dip, I sat on a rock at the base of the falls. By now a young German couple had arrived. I had just taken a picture on my phone and set it down next to me to grab a snack. Suddenly I hear a scraping sound and turn just in time to see my iphone slide off the rock and plummet into the water below, wedged between two rocks. I yellow out “nonono!” and go into my typical panic mode: when things like this happen, I get very logical. First step: look for bright pink phone case from above the water. No luck. Second step: put head underwater and look for bright pink case. Forget eyes don’t work when you don’t have swim goggles. No luck. I knew the third step was to dive down and blindly feel around with my hands, but I also knew that would require diving beneath these two large boulders (angled on top of one another) and I knew better than to do that without a spotter. I went over to the German couple, explained to them what happened, and asked if they would spot me, which of course they agreed to.


Last photo taken before my phone went swimming

I dove down and tried to feel. My hand touched rock, then more rock, then my fingers slipped into the opening of a cave of sorts where the two rocks met. My heart sank. Of course my phone HAD to fall into the 12-inch diameter cave opening. I resurfaced and despairingly said, “I think it fell into a hole! But it’s too narrow for me to stick my head and shoulders in!” The German man said “Does your leg fit? See if you can feel it with your toes.” I took a huge breath, lowered myself underwater, and slipped my right leg up to my hip joint into the hole. My toes just touched the bottom. I probed: sand, sand, big rock, sand…ohmigosh! My phone! I resurfaced. “I feel it! I feel it! It’s in the hole!” “Try to grab it with your toes,” the German said. I took a breath, tried to lower my heart rate, and sank. The phone was lying flat on the bottom and I tried to flip it on its side and wrap my toes around it. No luck. I surfaced, waited a few minutes, and tried again. I repeated this about 10 times with no success.

Finally the German said “let me try. My friends call me monkey feet.” He lowered into the water, confirmed he could feel it, and tried for about 10 minutes with no luck. Meanwhile I was starting to realize the reality of this situation. Besides losing a very expensive iphone, I was now in Asia, traveling alone, with no primary means of communication. But most importantly, every single picture I’d taken from my trip was on that phone and not backed up since I didn’t have wifi + charging at the same time. This was about to completely ruin my trip, and put me in a very bad situation.

The German surfaced again. He said “I can sort of wrap my toes around it but if I go for it there’s a chance it might slip out and then fall deeper into the cave where you really can’t get it. Do you want me to try even though we risk it falling further?” I took a big gulp and said “yes, go for it.” The next 30 seconds were stressful. He took a breath and lowered into the water. Meanwhile I prayed like I’ve never prayed before. His head started to break the surface with no pink in sight. My heart sank. Suddenly he reached down towards his foot and raised his hand to the sky: my iphone! I yelled, threw my arms around him, and was overjoyed. Since I had a lifeproof case my phone was still working and only suffered a few scratches on the case. I could not express enough gratitude to the Germans. I told them I wanted to buy them dinner as a thank you, and we made arrangements to meet later, but they never showed up so I was unable to repay them. Needless to say, Mr. Monkeyfeet saved my whole trip.


By the time we sorted out my iphone it was already noon and scorching. I wanted to try to see the other half of the park so I hurried back to the visitors center, taking only 2 hours to return. I decided to forgo visiting the sip-et-chan waterfall, since it sounded strenuous and I was running short on time and energy. Instead I headed out to the San Yang Roi lookout. Unfortunately, this was a bust. Almost the entire trail consisted of concrete stairs in a horrible state of disrepair, and I never could find the lookout with the “panoramic view of the mountain ridge.” I decided to head back since by now it was 3 and I was hot and in need of rest. I got back to my bungalow, showered, then treated myself to an hour long oil massage. I then waited for the Germans, but once it became clear they weren’t coming I headed out for a ho-hum meal of papaya salad and pad siou before crawling into bed early with a book.


Read previous: Day 29-32: Koh Phayam

Read next: Day 35-37: The floating houses on Cheow Lan Lake

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February 20, Day 29: Bangkok

Despite being exhausted, the combination of my hacking cough and stomach pain and nausea from the antibiotics prevented me from getting restorative sleep. We arrived in Bangkok to confusion: we were told our ticket would get us to Bangkok University in the center of town, but the bus driver insisted we get off at Moh Chit, way north of the city. At this point my bike was a burden: I had a bike and Robert had none. Bikes were forbidden on the skytrain, and it would cost more money than we had to get a tuk-tuk to town. Since it was 4am and I had no map, me cycling and Robert taking public transport was out of the question. We decided to investigate city buses. The first bus emphatically said no to me taking my bike on board. But when a new, empty bus pulled up and the driver got off, we decided to make a run for it. Robert grabbed my bike and quickly boarded the bus, tucking into the rear seat and putting the bike out of the way of fellow passengers. We held our breath and crossed our fingers the driver would allow us to continue. Sure enough it worked, and the driver sort of “looked the other way” when he saw us with our bike.

About 20 minutes later we arrived at Khao San road and had fun exploring the street at 6am- a mix of vendors getting a head start on their day and very drunk people ending their night. After exploring for a bit it was time for Robert and I to part ways, as he was off to meet another friend for his great adventure.

Meanwhile, I had a day to kill in Bangkok before my night bus and decided to make the most of it. I bicycled all around town (scary, but exhilarating!) and had fun exploring the markets. I decided to kill more time by watching an English movie at the theater, and by the time it was over, it was time for me to find my bus station. The station I needed to get to was 15 km out of the city and the route took me along major roads with speeding cars. To be honest, the thought of that route terrified me, but when I realized the tuk-tuk would cost me the same as 2 nights’ lodging, my opinion on riding changed. So I put on my big girl pants and cleared my head and hit the road. Since I was solo and it was getting dark my stress level was high and I had countless close calls, but eventually I pulled into the bus station. I booked my ticket to Ranong and then grabbed some food before  boarding my night bus.


February 21, Day 30: Ranong

I arrived in Ranong around 7:30am and asked a few people for directions to the pier, which was about 5km away. On the way I stopped in town for dim sum and coffee to fuel my travels. I found the pier and bought my 300 Baht slow boat ticket: 200 for the ticket and an extra 100 for my bicycle. Because the tide was low we left from an alternate pier, but a motorbike guided me through the city to the proper location. After watching all the food get loaded on the boat, the passengers boarded. I grabbed my seat, and once the boat was full I decided to double-check that my bike had been loaded. I’m glad I checked because it was still on the pier! After clarifying the bike was indeed mine, and was supposed to be loaded, I sat back and relaxed knowing my precious cargo was coming with me.

I was headed to Koh Phayam, an island that was a 2hr boat ride away. As soon as the island came into view, I knew I would love it.


Main port of Koh Phayam

The island is just a few kilometers long and has no cars–only rudimentary concrete paths for motorbikes and bicycles. I set off to find budget housing, being told I would have no issue finding a place without a reservation. It turned out that advice was horribly wrong: after 2 hours of exploring in the hot sun everything cheap was booked and the only thing available was for 800 Baht a night–way outside my budget. Thankfully, the last place I checked at the far north side of Buffalo Bay proved lucky: a tent had just opened up 10 minutes earlier for 150 Baht per night! I happily took the tent and then spent the afternoon snorkeling the waters of the bay.


My tent

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The restaurant attached to the main house


In the evening I dined at the restaurant and met other solo travelers. We drank beer and talked as the sky got dark. I was so exhausted from all my travels that I snuck off to bed quite early, and enjoyed a solid night of sleep with the island breeze blowing through my tent.


February 22, Day 31: Koh Phayam

I woke around 7 and headed to breakfast. While eating, I learned it was the annual cashew festival on the island and there were activities all weekend long. I also heard there was a mini-marathon scheduled for the evening, so naturally I had to check it out. I headed into town on my bike to get information. Despite all the signs indicating the race would be at 5pm I was told the race had already occurred at 6am (I was then told it’s quite common for people here to mix up pm and am). Since I was in town, I took advantage of the internet to research travel plans for the next leg of my trip, then headed back to the guesthouse to relay news of the race to other travelers.

By now the mid-morning sun was blazing so I decided to throw on my shimmer suit and go for an open-water swim. The water was warm and clear, but there were invisible tiny jellyfish that were stinging me every 30 seconds or so. Eventually I got to a pocket of them where I was getting stung nonstop, so I turned around. By the time I emerged I was covered in welts but happy I got a wetsuit-free swim in!

After my swim I met up with other travelers for lunch of green curry, then spent the hot afternoon lazing around and reading. Around 5pm it cooled enough to bike into town for the festival. It was an amazing vibe in town-in the middle of the festival was an ongoing soccer match between local teams, and off to one side was ongoing boxing competitions: men climbed onto a log and tried to punch each other into the water pit below. The entire venue was surrounded by vendors selling all types of food and drinks and in the far back were carnival style games as fundraisers for the schools. I spent the evening eating and laughing with some Germans, an American, and an Englishman.

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Eventually the Germans and American got bored and headed back to their bungalow, but the Englishman stayed with me to watch the “Miss Cashew Beauty Content”: a hilarious event of beauty, “talent,” and popularity. By now it was approaching 11pm so we decided to walk home: my headlamp had died so it wasn’t safe for me to bike. When we got back to the bungalows I headed to my tent, but he talked me into heading to the water to kick around in the phosphorescence and search for shooting stars in the milky way. By now it was beyond late and I was starting to see double from my tiredness, but when else do you have the chance to swim in warm water at night with glittering creatures in your wake while staring at the milky way? It was a truly magical experience, and I savored every moment.


February 23, Day 32: Koh Phayam

Despite going to bed at an ungodly hour, I woke at 6 eager to start my day. I had heard of a nearby beach where monkeys gather in the morning so I headed off on a sunrise hike. When I got there I found no monkeys, but instead was rewarded with a private beach and a tree full of hornbills.






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On my walk back home I came across a group of monkeys who were making their morning trek across the island. After a quick breakfast, I decided to explore the entire island by bike. I headed down the concrete path towards the biggest beach on the island, first stopping at a small beam set off 1/2 km from the main path. After descending some very steep stairs I was rewarded with a gorgeous beach with no one in sight–again further demonstrating just how quiet this place can be.

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From there I continued to Aow Yai, the biggest beach on the island. Despite its size, it was eerily quiet. In fact the whole island was quiet. We were told almost all the bungalows were full to capacity, but it was hard to see evidence of people.


Instead of cluttering the beach, people tended to lounge near their bungalows, which made the island feel empty. I rode my bike the length of the beach, then headed back along the concrete path cutting through the middle of the island.

I grabbed a quick lunch of Pad Siou then spent my afternoon in a glorious mix of swimming, reading and napping in a hammock. Once it got dark I grabbed a fantastic dinner of Burmese Green Tea Salad from the Starlight restaurant and hung out with even more travelers as we laughed and dined.

Read previous: Day 26-28: The final stretch of Cambodia

Read next: Day 33-34: Khao Sok and the iPhone near-disaster